Writing books, like sailing, is a good training ground for the development of patience, presence of mind and endurance.  

I have often likened writing to a long period of gestation, where there is the quiet inner creation. There are the expectations for its eventual birth and unveiling and the inevitable necessity of letting go so that what you have created can have its own life in the world.  

My books have all taken a long time in gestation, Temple of the Grail took me close to ten years, The Seal six years, The Sixth Key the only anomaly, two years and Fifth Gospel A novel four years. It has now been seven years since I started writing Ghost Club so it is not in need of an emergency Cesarian Section yet!  

One might imagine it would get easier, the gestation quicker, but in truth it varies as much from book to book as it does from child to child. The reason is that one has to let go of the previous book's voice before one can embark on a new one. If the voice is a strong one, as the voice of Fifth Gospel - A Novel, then it will be all the harder to find one's way to the new one.  

Would you believe I'm still finding the true voice of Ghost Club?  The reason is I'm being careful to  allow it to speak. I'm trying not to put words in its mouth!  The result is that I have four hundred or more pages written and I'm still waiting to know what it is really about. So when I sit to write, it is constantly changing.  

Does that sound strange? 

Well it was the same with The Seal, in fact,  I didn't name it The Seal until three years into the writing of it because I didn't know it was a seal that my protagonist was keeping safe! With Temple of the Grail I didn't know about the secret in the monastery until a character announced it after two years or so and with The Sixth Key I didn't know my protagonist was looking for a 'key' until my editor called me and asked me to change the book's name.  With Fifth Gospel I had the entire book written before I added the different time line and two new characters, Lea and Brother Marty - now they are so essential I could not imagine the book without them. They gave it a voice!

 Every time I have listened for the new voice...it comes from the most unexpected places...  If I had rushed those books they would have not been what they are.  So I wait like an expectant mother.

To be an author requires patience, presence of mind and endurance...just like sailing. Patience to wait for the right voice, presence of mind to hear it when it comes, and endurance to take the voice to its desired end.  

Well, it never ends, at least not for me... 

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I have been writing professionally for 23 years and the one thing I have learnt is that stories are not pulled onto the page from thin air, nor are the best stories necessarily 'original'. They are, I have come to realise more and more, created long before a word is ever written and they often resemble other stories which have been told.

I say this because for me writing is a little like creating a sculpture.

Michelangelo said, 'The sculpture is already complete within the marble block, before I start my work. It is already there, I just have to chisel away the superfluous material.' and he also said this, ' I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.'

When I begin a book, I don't look at the blank page as some writers say they do, with trepidation. I feel excited because what I'm about to write is already written and my task is just to reveal its fullness and beauty by chiselling out one word at a time. The skill comes in finding the right combination of words, so that the story is revealed faithfully, and the image created is the best likeness.

Enjoyment comes after the hard work is done, when one is polishing the stone lovingly and observing with wonder and awe how the story has been released from bondage and its beauty and life revealed.

At this point the story and all its characters can now observe the writer! And it is like the moment a mother sees the child she has given birth to for the first time...Child and mother look at one another with recognition and yet for the first time!

This brings me to the idea of 'originality'. We like to think our stories are 'original', so much emphasis is placed on this idea - that a story belongs to the writer, and he or she has a right to it. But the truth is that stories have their own life and the purer the story is, the more it will resemble other stories told by other writers, only seen through different eyes. For our consciousness evolves and our ability to see stories and to write them in their fullness also evolves. My task as a writer, is to make the story that wants to be told, relevant for our times.

For just as a child is unique and yet it has similarities with all children: four limbs, a head, eyes, ears etc, so is every story unique and yet the same as other stories, though seen with new eyes. Michelangelo, after all, was not the first nor the last to depict David! Similarly most stories are just the same stories which have been told over and over again by different people in ways relevant to their times. For instance, the story of Faust and Frankenstein both originate from the Greek Prometheus Saga.

The only time I have writer's block is when I try to make a story 'original' or different from what already lives in me, in such a way that it loses its reason for existence.

I have learnt the hard way that what lives in my heart is the spirit of the story - which wants to be told - and that my task is to use my skill to tell it, not to distort it and make it 'different' but merely to reveal it through my eyes in such a way that it is relevant to those who read it toady.

Writing - the Art of telling a story.

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