We have the brilliant Alex Gutteridge here today with an amazing post... Enjoy!! :D
I CAN’T DO THAT!
‘There’s no such word as can’t.’ This was one of my father’s favourite sayings when I was small. I was a cautious child and he said these words to me often as I faltered over some task. He ensured, for the most part, that I didn’t give up on things which were within my grasp, if only I’d tried a little bit harder. Of course those words used to irritate me at the time and of course I’ve failed at many things, many times, but it’s not been for want of trying. And where my father’s words have been particularly useful is in my writing life.
I think that I always knew deep down that I wanted to write but didn’t actually know if I could do it, if I would have the right amount of persistence, resilience and imagination to see me through to the end of a book. But the time comes when the only way to find out if you have what it takes is to give it a try. And sometimes you really do think to yourself, if I am going to do this, it has to be now. This is what happened to me after my daughter was born. Suddenly the time seemed right. I enrolled at what was then Leicester Adult Education College and for one morning a week learned about writing in various forms. At the time writing for children was very much under the radar and we actually only had one brief session which covered it. But that didn’t matter. I learned about plotting, a sense of place, mixed with other people who loved writing and probably most importantly of all, I learned about the importance of studying your market. I still didn’t know if I could write a story that would be published but I knew that I had been given the grounding I needed to give it a go.
Actually I was very lucky and my first book, Ghost Riders, was accepted by A&C Black/Puffin as part of their Chillers series. When I look back at that initial manuscript it looks very amateurish but the publishers obviously saw something in the story and I will be forever grateful to them for that. Of course getting a book accepted for publication is a huge thrill and gives you a certain degree of confidence. With each book you write, whether published or sitting in a drawer waiting for its time to shine, you learn something about yourself and about the process of writing. However, what never leaves me when I begin a new project is that initial thought ‘I’m not sure that I can do this’. This is probably partly to do with the fact that I’m not a plotter or a planner. When starting out, I know the beginning of the story and usually the ending, but the swathe of chapters in the middle remains a complete mystery, until I begin to write. It’s a scary way to work but also an enlightening one too because sometimes a scene just pops into your head and you think ‘oh I had no idea that was going to happen’.
Basically it all boils down to trust, trust in yourself and in the process of writing. It is about believing, despite the doubts and that nasty little critic sitting on your shoulder, that you CAN do this, that the right words will reveal themselves and that the plot will unfold in the direction it is meant to take. If you love your story and your characters it is about having the faith that they will find their rightful place in the world. This can take time and a good degree of patience. It may eventually result in publishing your book yourself rather than using a mainstream publisher but if you do not honour your commitment to whatever project it is you have undertaken you may forever wonder ‘what if?’
My latest book, Last Chance Angel, was the most technically difficult book I’ve had to write and there were times when I thought that I’d never get it right.
But again I was lucky. I had people around me who believed in my ability as a writer, my friends and family and of course subsequently Templar, my publishers. But ultimately I had to believe in myself in order to do justice to the story I wanted to tell. And of course I had my father’s voice, imprinted in my psyche, whispering to me through my own negativity. Of all of the gifts he gave me, those six little words, ‘there’s no such word as can’t’, have been some of the most valuable. On the whole we are capable of more than we realise.
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Alex Gutteridge was born in Leicestershire and has lived there ever since, earning her the rather dubious title of 'woolly back'!
Alex attended local primary schools, followed by boarding school and 6th form college. She is now married with 3 children and surrounded by pets that include several stick insects and lots of fish.
Alex has a real fear of spiders, Maths and hermetically sealed packages but cannot get enough of raspberries, the colour Blue and swinging as high as she can go on her daughter's swing!