Columnist Kate Walker starts the New Year with the first of her monthly columns A Date With Kate
Hello and welcome to the very first Date With Kate 2011.
You’re probably thinking, ‘How hard can it be?’ After all, I’m a writer – so I write! Words are my business, so putting them together should be so easy. But there are so many different types of writing – so many different subjects. Styles. Fiction or non-fiction? And who is my audience? All you lovely PHS readers out there – I know you’re out there because the stats say so. But the stat5s don’t tell me whether you are readers or writers. Published or unpubbed. Established and settled into your writing career - or just beginning, just starting out.
I remember once when I was at school, the English teacher decided to give us a topic for an essay to write over the weekend. I don’t know whether he was feeling inspired or just plain lazy – but what he actually said was – write an essay on any subject you like. You choose. I also remember how that paralysed me. Here was a blank page, just waiting to be filled - and I had no idea what to put on it. I now spend my days doing just that – filling empty pages with stories that I hope readers will enjoy when they are finally published.
But there’s a long journey from that first moment of writing Chapter One at the top of a brand new page and the moment when I add the very last full stop to the revised and reworked version of the novel I’ve written and know that it is now finished. Done. Ready for publication. The start of a new year is something like that too – there is the calendar with all those fresh, new, wonderful days stretching ahead with so much potential. Everyone talks about resolutions, discipline, diets, detoxing, denial (does everything that’s restricting and healthy begin with a D?)
And as I said in my post in December on resolutions for writers – burn-out is real, cruel and savage. I want to avoid that – and I’d love to think that you can avoid it too.
So I’m not going to set myself ridiculous targets - and I hope you won’t too. I’m going to remember that life is just a candle and if you burn it at both ends it burns out fast. And if you are too busy concentrating on work – even work you enjoy like writing - one day you’re going to look up and find that a lot ofbeautiful things have slipped by while you had your head down – and you can’t get them back.
If there’s one thing that 25+ years of writing, 25+ years of new beginnings, blank pages have taught me it’s that so long as you begin – and then keep putting one foot in front of another (or one word after another . . .)then those blank pages, the longest journey, the project you thought was never-ending, will all be completed . What is it they say – the way to eat an elephant is slice by slice.
And she never did. Not for millions...not even for a dollar.
One day, in frustration, she cried out to God, “Why won’t you answer my prayer?”
God answered, “Why won’t you buy a lottery ticket?”
And that’s it – you can’t just sit there and wait for it - whatever it is – to happen. You have to do something about it. To get from a blank page to a book, you have to write the first word and then another and another . . . until you end up with 55,000 of the things – or more. I just proved that. I sat here today, not knowing what to write for this very first column – and here I am finishing it off with 1,202 words behind me.
So that’s how I’m going into 2011 – my 26th year as a published author. And the words I’m keeping in my head are another string all beginning with the same letter – Balance – books – beauty - doing my best – and of course that important word beginning.
I know we’re already well into the first month of 2011 – but the other thing that being a writer teaches you is that there is always a brand new start to be made – if the writing has gone terribly wrong – the book is going nowhere – the idea is dead in the water – there’s always a brand new, fresh, clean page to be turned and you can start again. But do start. All the thinking, planning, dreaming, setting goals is no good unless you begin.