Becoming a writer: The Journey of ‘By The Icehawk’s Feather’ by Gisela Gibbon.
You go for a walk, read some article somewhere, talk about the mysteries of life with your friends or family, and an idea begins to form – what if?
What would happen if this happened or that, to someone, to me, to you even? How would you react, how would I? If it was some huge group experience, something totally unexpected we all witnessed together perhaps, would it make a difference how old you were, what had come before, where you were in life? And what would it be like to put yourself into the shoes of various characters? Create them, grow with them, live through them?
All those musings pretty much went before the first word of my debut novel, ‘By The Icehawk’s Feather’. I had an itch, a need to explore a situation that might just be possible in the near future. Quantum physics, the multiverse, old legends, rebellion, the growing threat of AI surveillance, all thoughts that come and go through the minds of most of us at some point, a mass of ideas, swirling around, nurtured by random articles, old books, movies, a line on the radio. Hopes and dreams and ideals come to the fore, more swirling, more sleepless nights, more ideas overload. As an artist and ever creative person, could I fit writing into my life? Or would my life fit around writing? Could I do it, be consistent, most of all, as my enthusiasm tends to come and go? ADD person here, all over the place. But, with the ability to hyperfocus, too. So that was reassuring. The Leonardo da Vinci personality, apparently. Are you with me, da Vinci?
The really clever thing about writing is that you have to put your thoughts in order, one by one, word by word. And, the really hard thing is that you have to put your thoughts in order, one by one, word by word. There is just no escape from that fact. And that’s a blessing. A scary, daunting, reassuring blessing.
Some ideas in place, synchronicity happened. I heard about NaNoWriMo, the ‘write a novel in November challenge.’ Ok, not a whole novel, but 50,000 words in 30 days. Which doesn’t mean that much when you’ve never really counted words before. The only time I ever counted words was as a technical translator, words mean money, words have to be translated within a certain deadline, so, how long do you need to work to get your tenner or whatever it was then for a thousand words? I wish debut writers would get paid like that, it would give some kind of encouragement. But I digress.
November 1st had arrived. I had signed up to Nanowrimo, paid a donation, given myself a username, given the book a temporary title, ‘The Sign’. I’d had my day painting in the studio, had made dinner, put the washing machine on, gone for a walk, and sat in the living room with my husband, with the TV on, me with my laptop on my knees. And stared into space, neither seeing the TV, nor knowing how to start. Just write, it said on the Nanowrimo site, you can tidy it up later. Just write. So, I thought of my first character, saw her in my mind’s eye, saw what she was doing, felt what she was feeling. And wrote. And wrote. And wrote some more. Everynow and then my husband laughed at something on TV, I’d look up, pick up on what was going on there, like a mini breather, then the itch to write overtook again, and I wrote some more. Needless to say I don’t remember the movie, because I had my own movie going on in my mind, and, I loved the distraction, it stopped me getting too intense somehow, and the words flowed. I also loved the fact that my husband, Howard, was sitting there with me in the room, he has that ease of being that freshens the air, energizes it, makes it sparkly for me with his light hearted vibe. The kind of man you can hear laugh to himself, entirely absorbed in whatever he is doing, reading, watching. And not intruding in my writing at all. Nor offended that I was kind of miles away. Now, if you’re thinking of writing a whole book of your own, don’t feel you have to have perfect conditions, Shakespeare’s shed, perfect silence and birdsong and maybe a violin concerto playing in the background. Write where you are happy and comfortable. If that’s sitting up in bed first thing in the morning, do that. In the spirit of Bob Ross, make it your happy little world, you decide where you want to put what, most of all yourself. Let your writing entertain you. If it bores you, then it’ll most likely bore everyone else, too. What do you like? Do that, make it your own.
By the end of that first night I had written 2300 words. Not bad, considering it needs around 1600 a day for the challenge. And good to be ahead, knowing I’m not the most consistent or routined sort of woman. It didn’t feel like work, it felt more entertaining than the TV, and that made it easy. Those were our evenings for that whole month. I overshot the target, made it to 64,000 I think. And knew I was only half way through my book. I downloaded a little counting graph app to mimic Nanowrimo’s, as I realized it helped me, seeing that graph every day, kept me focused.
Sounds easy, doesn’t it, just write. But, before I had it all down, I suddenly hit the wall, like some marathon runner. I had worn myself out without realising, got plagued by sudden and overwhelming self-doubt, who am I kidding, all that. I’m German, English is my second language, would it show? Would it be an awful read? Is it all nonsense anyhow? I lost confidence and momentum. No idea why, but it happened. Some ill health, various attempts to sell the house and move, family matters, things just got in the way. And it was annoying the hell out of me. What a waste of all that effort if I didn’t finish it. The silent beating myself up. Forgetting what I had written, letting almost a year pass.
Stopping and then starting again isn’t easy. But, I’d made the promise to good people I’d do this, and promises to others mean more than to myself, so, I picked up again, broke through the wall, got back into it and finished it. And then spent over three years editing and re-editing, having others read it, listen to feedback, suggestions, edits, make it better, always better. There is always a better. My book has been out since last August, I hope you’ll love it.
You can buy Gisela’s new book here:
‘By The Icehawk’s Feather’ Available on Amazon
P.S: A Newcastle TV producer just contacted me yesterday out of the blue, having purchased my book. Who knows where that might lead? Write your story and be open to possibilities. The sequel is already under way. And I’m excited.
Gisela Gibbon https://giselagibbon.co.uk/author/