‘Tell ‘ee what, Master Crawley;–and yer reverence mustn’t think as I means to be preaching; there ain’t nowt a man can’t bear if he’ll only be dogged. You to whome, Master Crawley, and think o’ that, and maybe it’ll do ye a good yet. It’s dogged as does it. It ain’t thinking about it.’ Then Giles Hoggett withdrew his hand from the clergyman’s, and walked away towards his home at Hoggle End. Mr Crawley also turned away homewards, and as he made his way through the lanes, he repeated to himself Giles Hoggett’s words. ‘It’s dogged as does it. It’s not thinking about it.’
Anthony Trollope could swing a pen. I’ve re-read his Barsetshire series at least five times in my life and this exchange, between a beleaguered, principled cleric and a farm hand has stayed with me for 36 years.
For a month, I’ve been insisting on a regular writing time. as if I didn’t have a job, a child, a house to renovate, another house to clear and sell, a dog, a cat, fish, money worries and parish responsibilities. Just as I did when I first became a published author.
To be honest, I thought I might not be able to write any more. I’d had such a disappointment with how my last publishing deal worked out…and some slights at work that were probably nothing, but that I magnified and dwelt upon… And then I tried to write something enormously difficult and complicated and…well…I failed. I couldn’t find the right voice for it.
When my memoir (about dying in a car wreck as a teenager and my subsequent recovery) wasn’t being accepted easily, I wondered, sometimes, if it would be a good idea to stop trying to write.
Then I was asked to fictionalise the memoir and then I had a rather tight deadline and started to work daily and…I found out that I can still write. Rather well, I think. I just turned the first 30K into my agent today. We’ll see what she thinks.
But that’s not the reason I’m writing this blog. The reason I’m writing this blog is that today, just walking the dog, I suddenly had an idea for what I need to do to my enormously difficult and complicated novel. I suddenly saw how the voice needed to work. I’m not ready to write it yet, but it’s starting to work for me.
It wasn’t thinking about it that got me there. It was writing, the actual practice of writing.
Hoggett, as I’ve found many times over the years, was absolutely right. It’s not thinking about it. It’s dogged as does it.