Margaret #Atwood #Writing New Beginnings


 I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, but one resolution I do have is that I want to make time for new writing. And by that, I don’t mean editing or revising, but new fiction. To that end, I came across this quote by Margaret Atwood from a Paris Review Interview in 1990.

“Every novel is—at the beginning—the same opening of a door onto a completely unknown space.”       ~ Margaret Atwood 1990, Paris Review

I thought it was a very fitting start for the New Year. A new beginning.

As we know, beginning something is easy. How a new gym membership pans out after that crucial six week mark is the telling point and when things can become a little more difficult.

 In saying I’m making a commitment to new fiction,  I may need to reduce my blogging time, or at least reduce how much time I spend on each blog. But nothing’s written in stone. It’s all still a new beginning right?

But what will I write? I can’t be specific, but I have been enjoying re-learning how to write short stories over the past couple of months. It is quite a change from the previous years I’ve spent on novel writing. But I’m still querying agents with my second novel, Under The Bed. And I’m revising my first novel, Radio Echo so…who know’s…the year is young. Let’s see how quickly I can write!

English: Author Margaret Atwood attends a read...

English: Author Margaret Atwood attends a reading at Eden Mills Writers’ Festival, Ontario, Canada in September 2006. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the same interview with Margaret Atwood, the interview asks “Do writers perceive differently than others? Is there anything unique about the writer’s eye?” An interesting question I thought. This is part of her response:-

 The unique thing about writers is that they write. Therefore they are pickier about words, at least on paper. But everyone “writes” in a way; that is, each person has a “story”—a personal narrative—which is constantly being replayed, revised, taken apart, and put together again. The significant points in this narrative change as a person ages—what may have been tragedy at twenty is seen as comedy or nostalgia at forty. All children “write.” (And paint, and sing.) I suppose the real question is why do so many people give it up. Intimidation, I suppose. Fear of not being good. Lack of time.

To me that was an important point, because I often ask myself why is this important to me, why do I feel the need to keep creating new worlds to populate? I think it’s important to me not to quit as much as anything else. But I also need to have something to say, to have a comment on the world in the work. It’s not that I wouldn’t consider writing, for example a light romance. I certainly have great admiration for those who do so and do it well. But for me, if I’m going to spend three + years on a 100,000 word novel, it has to say something. Whether I succeed or not is another matter, but I need to at least try.  There has to be a purpose behind the work, not just storytelling for story telling’s sake.

The year is new, and January is a good month for lofty goals. What are yours?

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  1. Happy New Year AK. That indeed is a lofty goal you have. My intention IS to set bigger, bolder goals this year. But I’m doing it with a one word focus to help me get to it. I stopped setting goals of any kind a few years ago. I found for me, it was intentions and/or mantras, that helped me reach new places in my journey. What I take from this post is this year is a time for loftiness! Thanks for the inspiration.
    Patricia Weber recently posted..Everyone Knows Someone PeculiarMy Profile

    • Happy New Year to you Pat. I think intentions and mantras are in fact a better way of being consistent and keeping going as the year progresses. But sometimes it’s good to have an excuse to sort things out in your mind, and prioritize. Setting goals in & of itself is a challenge I find, so it seems as if we’re n the same page. May good intentions reign:-)
      A.K. Andrew recently posted..Margaret #Atwood #Writing New BeginningsMy Profile

    • Patricia, I am so intrigued by your focus word approach. I would love to hear some examples of how you do this. Do you put your word up somewhere, or do you just recall it to mind throughout the day? How do you choose your word? And how often do you change it? I hope you don’t mind so many questions. I’m just so curious and a little in awe of how you choose just one word! I don’t know if I would be able to limit my intentions to one word over a long period of time.
      Angela Magnotti Andrews recently posted..The Taj Mahal DiamondMy Profile

  2. What a lovely post.
    I so agree about having a comment in our writing. All my River City novels seem to have a comment without actually commenting. Maybe it’s better for the reader to decide what is right and what is wrong? With luck, I’ve made the reader think. As a child, everything was back and white but as I grew up, I realized it wasn’t that simple.
    This year, I am committed to two writing projects which should be completed by early spring. Then I will re-evaluate my goals, for I believe goals are never static but ever changing. So my tentative plans are to finish these projects and then climb out of the writing trenches. Certainly not lofty but a much needed change of pace before I begin any new words.

    • Thanks so much for your comment, and interesting your insight into how a reader should interpret work. I think short term plans are really the only ones that are realistic. Not that we can’t plan long term, but only with the caveat that life doesn’t always turn out the way we planned. So I thing ever changing is a good plan. I hope you get the break you need. It is good o shift gears sometimes for sure.
      A.K. Andrew recently posted..Margaret #Atwood #Writing New BeginningsMy Profile

      • Oh that always present, foggy long-term plan is there. We must have something to aspire or we wouldn’t succeed in much of anything other than living a daily grind. When we were young, we had those super goals to succeed, to make a certain amount, to buy the house, and have the children, but life didn’t always cooperate and the order often got mixed up. 🙂
        Such it is with writing. We strive for that best seller, to be a household name, and to make a certain amount. But we all know that the house we wanted didn’t come easily and it was all work. We struggled with decisions to change jobs, for more or less hours, more pay, better… Can we keep the car another year? And writing is not much different.
        And just as real life throws us off course or presents a better opportunity, as writers we must be open and ready for things, accept things we cannot change, and adjust goals as needed to reach those lofty ones. And as honorable men and women who commit to something by giving our word, we must follow through, but we stay vigilant and watch for that chance to leap ahead or try a new path.
        I think the general public thinks we are somehow very different. We’re not. Just as the man who welds steel together to create a building, we weld words. Maybe the big difference is we not only weld the words but we are the architect.
        And as any child can tell you, there’s nothing like a new box of crayons. Maybe we. as writers, never lost that joy.

        • I love your metaphors! Welding words is a fantastic descriptor, and I think , yes we are the architects as well. As an artist as well as a writer, I’ll take a new box of crayons any day of the week. Keeping to our goals as writers can be a real struggle as real life intervene , but within the work itself I agree that we do need to respond to both external as well as internal factors. Plot lines throw us curve balls all the time, and characters disappoint us and need to be changed. But frankly I enjoy those challenges, difficult as they may be. And we can aways hope for a new box of crayons as we go. Thank you so much for your insight.
          A.K. Andrew recently posted..Margaret #Atwood #Writing New BeginningsMy Profile

          • So glad I’m subscribed to your blog, otherwise I might have missed your post. And if I had, we wouldn’t have had this lovely exchange.

            So here’s to a new year with new challenges. Wishing you all the best in 2015

  3. Working on new writing sounds exciting to me. I look forward to reading it!

    No real resolutions for me, except to continue what I’ve started. I haven’t been business blogging because I’ve been devoting time to rebuilding my main business website. I may finish that soon – it just needs some review.

    And I would like to continue doing my watercolors. Maybe more portraits.

    I need a new book – maybe I’ll take Margaret Atwood out of the library.
    Leora recently posted..Highland Park Birds VisitMy Profile

    • I find the prospect of new writing exciting too. And I do hope you continue with your water colors. They really are lovely. I think any creative pursuit helps to feed whatever else we’re doing, especially if it’s also creative. So a web redesign fits in perfectly. As to your business blog, it’s important to realize our limitations time wise, and good to take breaks and come back fresh. Sounds like lots of good projects Leora. Thanks so much for your comment:-)
      A.K. Andrew recently posted..Margaret #Atwood #Writing New BeginningsMy Profile

  4. Great quotes and insights, AK. I completely resonate with your need to say something with your writing. I’m the same way. I’m currently reading a great book on developing characters and themes in a way that drives the plot-line forward. I guess they call that character-driven stories, and that’s what I’m all about!!! The book is called “Inside Story,” by Dara Marks. Though it’s primarily written for screenwriters, there are many takeaways for novels and even for the memoir I’m writing!

    I definitely have some lofty goals for 2015. For starters, I want to use what I’ve learned to cull the primary theme and message I want to communicate with my memoir so that I can complete the writing by March. I want to self-publish it by May 2015. I also want to see my name in a magazine or two by the end of the year. And I’d like to have the outline completed for the first chapter of my second book!

    Thank you for inviting us to share our resolutions, goals, and mantras. I think it’s important to share them. It makes them more real to me, and I feel more confident in the outcome! ~Angela
    Angela Magnotti Andrews recently posted..The Taj Mahal DiamondMy Profile

    • A.K. Andrew recently posted..Margaret #Atwood #Writing New BeginningsMy Profile

    • Thanks so much for sharing your goals with us Angela. They are certainly some hefty ones in there!! Good to have deadlines in mind for your work, though I always find they need to be pushed out for that final edit. You only get one chance to make a first impression. “Inside Story ” sounds interesting, and I hope it helps you in completing your memoir. Keep me posted as to how you’re doing.
      A.K. Andrew recently posted..Margaret #Atwood #Writing New BeginningsMy Profile

      • Thanks, AK. You’re so right about deadlines needing to be flexible. I’ve already pushed my production deadline for my memoir from February to May, for the very reason you name. My content reviewers have told me they feel I can meet my revised deadline, but time is a fickle ally and there is much to do even after the final edit is made, so I will heed your advice and hold it all very loosely.
        Angela Magnotti Andrews recently posted..The Taj Mahal DiamondMy Profile

  5. Margaret Atwood is a personal favorite so I really enjoyed your post! I think she is spot on in her quote about fear being a major reason why many people give up writing. Yes. I admit it has gotten the better of me sometimes. I like the way you used her interview to discuss new beginnings. And, yes, trying is the main thing for sure!
    Christy Birmingham recently posted..Time Management and Writing: How Much Can We Plan?My Profile

    • Thanks Christy – really glad you enjoyed the post, and Margaret Atwood is one of my favourites too. It’s such a shame when good writers give up because of fear, but the whole process takes a lot of thick skin all the way round I think. But that’s why we love it right? 🙂
      A.K. Andrew recently posted..Margaret #Atwood #Writing New BeginningsMy Profile

  6. Happy new year AK. I agree it’s a good time for new beginnings and the setting of lofty goals. Mine include getting a couple books of my short stories done and a cookbook done also. Hoping I’m not biting off more than I can chew, but let’s set our sights high! Good luck with your goal and your writing. 🙂
    Susan cooper recently posted..Color of Racism: #StoryMy Profile

  7. One of my reading goals for this year is to read more Atwood. What she says about all people “writing” stories is so true. We each live our own narratives, and sometimes we are living a narrative we’ve told ourselves when our current lives no longer fit that narrative. In a way, we create our narratives early on and diverging from them can be scary. Good luck in writing new fiction in the coming year 🙂
    Jeri recently posted..#LitChat: The Most Photographed Barn in AmericaMy Profile

    • Thanks Jeri. And I also found that part of the quote interesting. Our lives are a little like plotting a novel – they are constantly developing and changing. And the hope is we can learn as we go, but it’s definitely scary when we start to go outside the box. I hope you find time to read more Atwood. Ive been particularly interested myself in re-reading Oryx & Crake. it’s such a complex book, full of twists and turns, and Im sure I could learn a lot from it.
      A.K. Andrew recently posted..Margaret #Atwood #Writing New BeginningsMy Profile

  8. I saw Margaret Atwood at my local university a few years ago. She was absolutely wonderful and intimidating with her wit and her intellect. She is one of my favorite writers. A friend of mine (also a writer and blogger) has a New Year’s resolution to “Focus.” It’s only one word but it really resonates with me because that’s what I need to do. I have several first drafts of novels lying about and I get a little ADHD about them and my blogging 🙂 Focusing will be a challenge but the reward will be great. Best of success with your goal to write new fiction! (And, ironically for me, I prefer to write short stories and yet it’s novels that I have lying about ;))
    Marie Bailey recently posted..Throwback: I AM therefore I writeMy Profile

    • How wonderful to have seen Margaret Atwood in person! She def. has a dry sense of humor, but SO interesting. I really like your friend’s resolution of “Focus” I think I might just adopt that one myself. It really does say a lot. We should let each other now how we are going with that:-) Interesting that you are a short story writer. It’s been interesting and challenging for me to go back to them. But they are so enjoyable. Thanks so much for stopping by and your insightful comment;-)
      A.K. Andrew recently posted..Margaret #Atwood #Writing New BeginningsMy Profile

  9. Even thinking of writing 100,000 words makes me tired! I admire writers like yourself who can commit to the long journey of writing a book. I think everything we write – including our blogs – is our own narrative. And our narrative does change as we age, as I can attest. When I look back over my long life I’m a different person that I was as a young adult. We grow and change and most of the time that is for the good if we don’t have some sort of tragedy upend our lives.
    Jeannette Paladino recently posted..How You Can Build Your Business and Brand on LinkedInMy Profile

    • Thanks Jeanette. You say a novel is a long slog, but you probably write just as much. After all a novel is made up of lots of little scenes which are somewhat akin to blog posts only fictional. In fact, if I didn’t think of it in that way then it would be overwhelming. One word at a time. And yes ,I too am finding my narrative change. There are overwhelming moments sometimes, but often things have changed gradually and we haven’t even realise. Always good to see you here:-)
      A.K. Andrew recently posted..Margaret #Atwood #Writing New BeginningsMy Profile

  10. Kudos to you for setting your goals! My goal is to write more as well. Not a novel – have no imagination – but write more and then publish more. As a non-fiction write I actually do a lot to say, the trick is putting down in a form that gives other value.
    Cheryl recently posted..#LiveCarefreeRV Home: Vacation and Retire in FloridaMy Profile

  11. Nothing wrong with jumping into short fiction. I don’t think we have nearly enough of it in the world right now. You never know, as you build your short fiction inventory you may find more and more that builds into your long fiction work as well.
    Jon Jefferson recently posted..HaystacksMy Profile

    • I think there has been a real uptick in the amount of short fiction, and in looking for agents for my novel I’m seeing more and more agents that are also looking for short fiction collections. I think even five years ago that was not the case. I’m hoping short fiction will feed into longer works whether it’s in actual content or style of writing, I’m not sure. But basically any writing is a good thing as far as I’m concerned.
      A.K. Andrew recently posted..Margaret #Atwood #Writing New BeginningsMy Profile

  12. Hi A.K. It is clear that you will make progress with your fiction as you have identified it as being important to you. I think that when we are focused enough to know what really matters to us, we can find a way to make it happen. All the best to you in achieving that goal. I feel grateful that we’re here to cheer one another on. Everything is achievable when we have a team to help get us there. Cheers!
    Doreen Pendgracs recently posted..Chocolatouring in 2015My Profile

  13. Beautiful start for the new year, A. K. How nice to start with Margaret Atwood, whom we all know and are interested in. As a purpose driven person I do not write resolutions. I just keep on keeping on. But I too have reconsidered the short story, as a novel is wonderful to write and perhaps the writing in itself is worthwhile, but at some point one hopes for some outcome, some result or at least a little notice!
    Best wishes on finding your agent, and also on your short stories.


    • Thank you so much Kathleen! I always feel inspired by Margaret Atwood. I think I too mostly follow your lead of keeping on keeping on. And really my intention for writing short stories, which I’ve now started , came from trying to decide whether to start a third novel or not at the moment. Instead, short stories seemed the best decision. Always good to see you here:-)
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