Monday, January 01, 2024

Beginnings and endings - musings

I’ve just listened to a fascinating edition of Open Book on BBC iPlayer about the beginnings and endings in fiction. Three writers were choosing and discussing their favourites. It made me go and find my own novels and read the beginnings again to  check them out. 

I decided that (strangely) my favourite beginning was that in Zuzu’s Petals, the least popular of my novels. And the weakest beginning, I decided, was the one in Even When They Know You.

I used to find the beginning of a novel the hardest part to write, and if I were writing now I think I’d start part way in and write the beginning later. The writers on the programme agreed that they don’t know what the beginning is until they have written the ending. This was because the beginning must contain the equivalent of the DNA of the novel. 

One of Kurt Vonnegut’s rules of writing was to “Start as close to the end as possible.” I wish I had taken his advice.

Yesterday after Quaker meeting when we were drinking coffee, someone I don’t know well took But I Told You Last Year That I Loved You from the library shelf and said to me “Are you this Sue Hepworth? I didn’t know you were a writer.”

“Yes, it’s me,” I said, “but I’m a painter now.”

The Friend standing next to me said generously “She’s a very good writer. You should read it.”

In the afternoon I had some work to do on my laptop and it was chilly in the bedroom so I carried it down to what used to be my study, now my studio, because the log burning stove was lit in there. 

I cleared the paints to the back of the desk and began to write, and a wave of comfort swept over me. I remembered how much I used to enjoy sitting there in that room, at the desk, facing the wall, writing. And I wished I had been sitting there writing another novel. It was very strange. 

I think perhaps I should write again. Not for public consumption - because this enterprise is so demanding and because there are so many strands to being a novelist which are nothing but hassle. But I could write for personal pleasure, and also for my mental health. I really should write in my journal more often than once a season.

When I first joined Instagram, in order to post my paintings on there, the only thing I had on my profile was ‘A writer becoming a painter.’ Last week I changed it to ‘Painter, based in the UK.’

Dave and I ignore New Year celebrations. We see it as an arbitrary marker. And anyway, when you look at the world, what is there to celebrate?

But I do have a list of things I want to achieve in 2024, and some of them are concerned with our endings…inspired by the bit in the Quaker Advices and Queries that says 

“Approach old age with courage and hope. As far as possible make arrangements for your care in good time so that an undue burden does not fall on others…”

Other aims this coming year are to catch up with old friends, to read more challenging fiction, and to become a better painter.

When I’ve posted this, I’m going to put a new battery in my Courage sign for the darkest days to come - January.

Thank you for sticking with me during this last unhappy period since October 7th. I wish you all contentment and courage for the coming year.

As I am signing off, 13 year old Lux in Colorado just exploded onto my iPad screen with “Happy New Year!” And I responded as required - of course! And we went on exchanging love and ❤️❤️❤️. 

She has put such a big smile on my face. Oh, young people are our hope and our consolation. 


Anonymous said...

Best wishes for 2024 Sue. Hope you plan to keep on blogging! Sally xx

Sue Hepworth said...

Hi Sally, Happy New Year to you, too.
I have done one further post after this one. But it was a week ago, I admit.
I do intend to blog again. I’m waiting for inspiration.