January 27, 2011
- You stab cardboard boxes with your correcting pen
- You fantasize about becoming a marketing manager
- The thought of a being a ‘failed writer’ feels like it’d be a great success
- Your surroundings collapse into two-dimensional props, devoid of colour and significance
- You wake up from power-naps convinced that the last twenty-six years of your life have been a crazy dream
- You sob because you realize the last crazy twenty-six years of your life aren’t a dream
- Personal pronouns begin to really piss you off
- Your characters offer you advice
- You’d endure a rectal exam with a smile on your face just so you’d have something decent to write about
- Classical music seems to mock you
- Everything seems to mock you
- Depression is the most interesting thing to happen to you all week and you don’t give a toss
- You’ve given up caring about sounding pretentious
- All you want to do is finish the chapter.
January 23, 2011
Ah, overshot this one by a few days but forgive me because I’ve had one of those mind-altering, snotacular colds that put you in bed for days. And anyway, you got two in the space of a week so ner.
Disease has a way of making me lose focus so as you can imagine, everything I had planned for the past week has been replaced by a waste basket full of sneezed-in-to tissues. But now I’m feeling better and I’m taking advantage of this lack of direction because when you’re standing in the middle of a disaster, you can see everything in detail. It’s got me thinking.
I’ve been making the novel too complicated and when things start to get sticky in my writing, they also start to become implausible. With people vanishing and origins being thrown out of sync, it’s no wonder I can’t finish the first chapter. Reading shouldn’t be easy but it shouldn’t be soul-destroying either.
I’m now trying to reform the plot so it’s simple, whilst searching the top cupboard of my brain for an important answer to an essential question: what am I exploring in this novel?
I’m not sure (lie). I can’t make it out in all the mess of ideas (another lie). I don’t understand it (blah blah blah).
In truth: I’m exploring the absence of a presence.
The thing I’m unsure about is what this means and that’s an uncomfortable thought because it carries a hint of irony in it – that anything means anything. Of course it does! But only because we layer meaning over things. The idea that there’s an inherent meaning to anything is problematic. Pick an object, an emotion, a situation – whatever you want – and then open it up. Go on, don’t be shy! Right open. Now have a good look at it and tell me that the thing you’ve chosen has one definitive meaning. It doesn’t, does it?
Of course this is a bit of a farce because you’ll get the gurus (authority) who say (kinda snobbish in my head): yes yes, we’re all multiple and it’s all quite normal to be that way; there are many things but they all essentially boil down to one thing…
And then I lose interest because they’re doing it again, drawing all the multiplicity into a single point, a bit like this sentence just has. I’m stumped by this point too.
It’s too easy to say that nothing has a presence and it’s too convenient to say we’ll change it when we need to because presence never sticks around longe enough for us to a) recognise it and b) think about changing it.
This is why I need to keep it simple. For some reason my fingers started typing ‘complicated’ when my head was saying ‘simple’. There’s a conflict going on in my head and at the moment, there’s nothing I can do about it. Asides from stop trying so hard and let it go.
- Finish chapter one and polish it so that the narrative makes sense
- Begin chapter two so that Faith finds herself in a new situation and so that I stop rotting in my own boredom
- Gently, gently, contemplate what it would mean to explore absence (TRACE) within the text itself and how this could be done
- Generate a lose and simple plot for the whole novel
- Write a synopsis based on this new plot.
There, simple. Over-and-out.
January 13, 2011
Two within a week. Who’d have thought.
The truth is I’m feeling dismal and the novel is starting to absorb all of that truth; it’s starting to breathe.
Updates to the week:
I did something on the list. I gutted part of my room. I would have done it all but I exhausted myself and for anyone who knows what it’s like to live with chronic fatigue/pain, overdoing it is a risk. It was worth it however because I threw out multiple trinkets from a dead past, and I burnt years of notes, diaries and writings. I’ve never experienced something that silent and cathartic before. I’d say crying comes close but that isn’t exactly silent, especially when I sob
I’m pleased I did it because now the room looks and feels airy, neat and reflective; organic. I also got round to stealing that gorgeous wooden table that had been used as a platform to cut wood on. It’s stout and heavy, obviously hand-made, and it has a couple of nicks and hack-marks but they’re charming. The wood is a mix of faded brown and gull-grey. I fell in love as soon as I saw it hauled onto the deck, a freebie from a neighbour, though I forget who. It sits, warm and steady beside my bed, and the room is finally light (although I have other areas to clean out, mainly the wardrobe, but they’re not important right now).
I’ve been wanting to take up yoga for a while but have lacked the confidence, money and stamina to join a group at the gyms in the area (to my disgust earlier this year, I discovered my local leisure centre had axed yoga from its timetable). To my delight, the Chronic Fatigue Clinic gave me a leaflet about a small group held twenty minutes from where I live which was not only accessible and cheaper than a gym but was also run by a teacher who is trained in teaching yoga for people living with M.E. / Chronic Fatigue / Fibromyalgia.
I took a risk and went along. An hour later I’d done very soothing, flowing postures and a bit of chanting, and I felt so relaxed that my smile came naturally, without incentive for once. No persuasions, no materialism, no promises or bribes. This one came from just being calm and happy. I don’t have to say I’ll be going again next week, do I?
I’ll be going next week.
I used to second-guess myself because of uncertainty and a lack of confidence, but recently I’ve been doing it because I’ve been thinking of different possibilities. Something clicked in the past eighteen hours (give or take) that’s made me readjust my perspective on the things I thought to be real. This wouldn’t be such a huge thing if it hadn’t happened last week or the week before that (it’s been happening for a while actually, I’ve merely been ignoring it), and I’d think little of it if last night’s eye-opener hadn’t got personal and exposed the soft, delicate bits inside to its starkness.
To be a little less cryptic, I’m wondering if pursuing a PhD has more to do with my desire for a systematic life and a shot a job (I’d be obliged to teach if I got department funding – they’d have to give me work) than my desire to have another notch on my Epic Belt of Education +5. I gave up worshipping the value of education when I realised my BSc accounted for little more than oh say, nothing, and that the paper my now defunct name is printed on is worth, wait for it, nothing.
So why the PhD? I wanted to get close to people. I know, I know; I’m full of contradictions. It’s hard to know you’re any good when other people aren’t there to remind you; this is also an absurd contradiction because I never believe them, barely care, and am more content to satisfy myself with my flat, salty focaccia bread than anyone else who’s more interested in making it perfect to create cultural, monetary and mostly unseen profits (because ‘profit’ is a concept, not a tangible thing; can you imagine having your profit in clementines? I’d be blissed-out on account of my clementine addiction).
I’ll encounter my dreams soon. PhD or not.
I leapt off the cliff and plummeted straight down onto the rocks with a thud and felt ecstatic when I opened my eyes and saw that I was sitting on the shore, cradled by a deserted cove and the sea. I thought I’d died before I’d hit the bottom but it appears I simply woke up to the idea of making this novel my novel and not a book of suggestions made by others. I’m still trying to figure out my message but like any good story, it takes time.
Things are making more sense and I understand now, that I can create the worlds/lives/people I want and send them off into the atmosphere where they’ll exist on without me. It’s like having kids I think: you spend a lot of time and money on them and even before that there’s the sex and the growth and then the birth. Never thought I’d use a metaphor like that in my lifetime. I’m becoming more domesticated and I blame the novel. But the novel is opening me up and holding a mirror, saying you’re writing me and you’ve always written what you want; I’m your dreams, so write me and free me and then you’ll have me.
The dissatisfaction I was experiencing a few days ago hasn’t gone but its real cause has finally shown up now that I’ve lifted the novel off its head. Have you noticed how everything is spectacle? Aristotle says that spectacle is a shitty way to develop a plot. I’m not saying life is a script in any inherent way but that we’re making it like that. And we’re doing a rubbish job of it. This is a brief observation on my part, but everything looks like it’s being slotted into categories:
- Insurance (car, home, life)
- War (flu epidemics, hay-fever, self)
- Appearance (fashion, beauty)
- Cars (that we don’t need)
- Money (quick loans, banks, credit rating)
- Price crunches and sales
And everything is spectacle; if it doesn’t dazzle and shine, or isn’t near-naked, it’s worthless. I wonder what the world would look like if it washed its face, put some clothes on and sat down for an honest conversation.
I’m shocked that I’ve written this much, but then I did promise. I’ll need to look over the list from Jan 2nd again and refresh my memory. I’m sure scrap-booking was in there and this is probably what I’ll do next, seeing as I’ve found a bunch of leaves I pressed last autumn, along with a wealth of postcards I’ve collected over the years.
January 8, 2011
We all knew it’d happen. I’m still trying to figure out the link between ‘loss-of-interest’ and ‘forgetting’ but let’s not make this too complicated because it can’t be any simpler than this: I almost screwed up on my ‘one new post a week’ promise I made at the start of the year. I think I’m in time to catch the last moments of a week, aren’t I?
What matters is that I’m here now. Actually what matters is that I have something to say, should have something to say, and I think I do. Something about being dissatisfied with what I’m doing at the moment, that is, trying to write the first chapter of this novel. Again.
I changed a bunch of things; I’ve figured out some decent imagery instead of groping at bored clichés and hoping they’d work for me, and I’ve started the process of letting my main character be herself (which is in part me but tenfold) and call the shots when it comes to her own details.
The plot has changed again but has simplified which I’m pleased about because it was all getting out-of-hand and becoming a farce rather than a genuine exploration of an existence that in part seems alien to me but one that I wish would cave in on itself so that I can experience it fully and then find a way out of. Because escape is so much easier to practice when there are gaping holes.
Things are working out in a haphazard way and I’m guessing that this is okay as long as I produce something (which I am) so why the dissatisfaction? I’m going over the same old stuff again and again, trying to reshape it when I’m close to scrapping the whole lot and starting again. I hear this is common practice but I’m whining about it because
- I don’t have the luxury of time; this needs to be completed soon or I fail the module
- I’m getting restless; I want to move on and explore other chapters
- Everything I’m writing is hollow; the inner critic is trashing everything I do and this isn’t helped by the fact that I keep reading exquisite novels by published authors including Bret Easton-Ellis (Lunar Park), Scarlett Thomas (PopCo), and Amy Sackville (The Still Point), my most recent expedition into the land of ‘They’re So Much Better Than Me’.
- I’m discovering huge gaps in my knowledge and worse, my memory. There’s a residue of all the things I should know and a bunch of faint memories where I was learning these things but apart from the occasional scrap of detail that arrives as an epiphany, there’s not much going on upstairs. I learn and then forget.
The real plus out of all this is that my notebook for the project is intense and detailed. I can trace (hehe) how everything has been changing from those weird seed moments right to trying to figure out the formation of a family tree where fathers and mothers are really aunts and uncles.
I think I’ll take a risk today and begin the novel again. I’ll aim to reach 5,000 words by 6pm. I can only gain. Even if I don’t use it as the opener, I’ll have plenty of new material to work and adjust the original chapter with.
But first, lunch.
Until next week (if I remember).
January 2, 2011
These three things combined soothe a migraine. I’d avoid the smoothie if you a mischievous stomach though.
I’ve been thinking of avoiding the obligatory ‘New Year’ post that creeps up at this time of year but just for a laugh, I think I’ll do it anyway and throw in a list of challenges to complete throughout the coming year. Not like a list of resolutions but just a bunch of stuff to do that I know I should do and could make for some interesting writing material:
1. Write a new post at least once a week
Yeah I know my track record has been sketchy but sometimes the words just aren’t there. Maybe I should take more photos.
2. Delete my other blogs that aren’t going anywhere
I get excited about loads of things all in one go and then fizzle out so it’s time I sat down and scraped off the good stuff from those blogs, threw them into this blog and then rid myself of my crumbling blog empire.
3. Take a certified grammar course
I know bits and pieces but like most people, I have a poor grasp of English grammar. My grasp is so tedious in fact, I’m not sure if I have poor grasp of or a poor grasp on. The course should remedy this along with my dissatisfaction with the gaping holes in my knowledge about language. Plus I’ll get to be a grammar snob and then start breaking the rules.
4. Reduce my material belongings by x%
Okay I couldn’t give you a real number then because I wouldn’t know what a percentage like that would physically translate to, but it’s going to be a lot of stuff. The books can stay, obviously, but many other things can be moved on to the nearest recycling bin. Rule of thumb: if I’ve not used it in the past year, bye-bye. I foresee much heartbreak.
5. Write 30,000 words of the novel
Hmmm alright you’ve got me here. I’m supposed to do that anyway but why keep it as a chore? I’ll write those words (possibly more) because I want to, not because I have to.
6. Knit a slouchy jumper
I’m sick of fashion dictating what I can wear so I’m going to knit my own unfashionable slouchy jumper, all black and full of deliberate holes.
7. Start a scrapbook
This is going to be easy but time-consuming. I’ve already got a scrapbook ready to be filled so I need to rummage through everything (which will occur when I crack on with number 4) and get sticking. That way I’ll have a place full of physical ideas to draw from for number 5.
8. Paint more
I love painting and sketching and have so far produced some nice pieces. I’m going to do more of this and open myself up to weird ways of observing.
9. Pace it
I have a dirty habit. It’s called taking on too much. I shall focus on a handful of things this year (with a list x points long), only giving my full attention to two activities at a time. And I’ll combine activities so that they spawn new ideas and teach me new things.
10. I was going to stop at 10 and I think I shall
This is my final challenge: know when to stop.
I’m satisfied with that lot. It works out at roughly one a month (with the exception of the novel) and I don’t see the need to take them on in the same order I’ve written them. Some will be ongoing, some will be quick. Some will be updated whilst others will be deleted, replaced and exhausted.
I hate New Year hype. It makes me so over-optimistic. I’d rather skip it and exist elsewhere.