May 6, 2011
April 7, 2011
It’s funny that I just deleted the first line of this post, isn’t it? Considering that I’m going to talk about the act of deleting. My first line was going to be:
I’m rereading Our Tragic Universe by Scarlett Thomas
That was until I decided the sentence to be worthy of nothing more than a ‘good for you’ response from my readers (hello friends) and my inner critic (hello you). But the point of opening with this mundane statement was to (deletes words again and again)
highlight the similarities between myself and Meg, the main protagonist who can’t seem to get her novel onto the page but has deleted thousands and thousands of words already, and rejected multiple ideas.
I know the feeling.
Everything I have written for this novel so far has been, although not physically, effectively erased. The one-and-a-bit chapters for last term? Quite pointless in the grand scheme of things (which as it turns out, is nothing); so how about the 4,000 – 5,000 words I’ve drafted for this term? Equally pointless.
The plot, which was insufficient in the first place, collapsed weeks ago and today, I deleted all but three factors of it: my main character, her job, her complicated relationship. This has essentially left me with a predictable pile of horse poop. It’s a great candidate for Chick lit don’t you think? Except Mum lit appears to be on the rise so nobody would be interested in my flaccid story anyway.
Cixous tells us to cut, to know when to cut as we’re writing, and I feel confident when I do it in my own work. There’s something delicious about highlighting 200 – 300 words and making them disappear forever.
My problem is that, like Meg, I don’t have anything to replace those deletions with. Having read the book once already, I’m conscious of the changes and processes Meg goes through in order to begin writing her book; it’s not pretty. Can I afford to go through those changes too? I’d love to but I’m short on time. I need to find my fast forward button or take the literary-creative equivalent of speed to develop enough in time for my next due date.
After laying in a graveyard for a few hours (that will never sound normal), I realised that my problem isn’t plotting but my ability to spawn ideas. I know I should be putting my characters in situations where they have to make relevant and necessary choice, but I suck at figuring out what those situations should be.
I know the desires of my characters well enough but lack the imaginative fertiliser to cause those desire to drive forward and develop the narrative. Or do I?
Considering I’m now left with horse poop after today’s massive cull, perhaps I should let it rot for a short while? Do I have time for that? 5 – 6 weeks says that potentially, yes I have.
Deleting isn’t the worse thing I can do when writing. It’s more likely the best thing I can do when the ideas / plot / characters / writing I do have are weak, uninteresting, and pointless. Effacement is breathing space.
Note: This post has been deleted repeatedly.
March 24, 2011
Sometimes I avoid things because I don’t want to face/do/experience/deal with them.
Other times I avoid things because I’m acute and aware of everything I have to do, confident in my movements.
It’s not really avoidance in this case; it’s arrogance.
Not the nasty type of arrogance though, but the innocent type that you allow yourself, that small space where you remove yourself and observe, with a sincere and smug smile, that for this moment in your life, you’re managing.
Today I’m touching everything.
A word that sticks: glacial. Reminds me of Fox’s Glacier Mints. Small, translucent blue cubes.
My world is a small, translucent blue cube that I can suck and roll about in my mouth for as long as I like, or turn it to shards in one bite. Look into it. What I see and what you see will be very different things.
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 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.
November 23, 2010
I thought the multiverse was something external but apparently it’s within, next to or somewhere very close to the universe we think we live in now. I’ve not read enough on the subject to go into depth (though that will probably be remedied by January) but I’ve heard enough from Derrida that it’s not possible to entirely escape metaphysics, that we remain inside of it (whatever it is) whilst trying to figure it all out into a straight line.
I have visions of paper bags and many people trying to fight their way out of one. What are we so determined to prove? That there’s something bigger than us? Something outside of our crappy little system whether it be solar, universe or language, that will confirm us?
I’m personally more concerned about getting on with things in this universe but that’s not to say I wouldn’t jump ship if the opportunity arose, on account of my thirst to vanish from this awful reality once and for all. No not suicide you ninny; there are countless ways to escape ‘reality’ without having to resort to death. You’re engaging in one of the methods right now if you’re reading this.
Which makes me wonder if we’re being too tactile when we try to find alternate universes. Maybe we make them all the time and billions of the things are floating around waiting to be taken home and loved but we’re all too materialistic and desperate to be ‘real’ to notice.
What inhabits these places? Lost words I reckon. Things that we’ve forgotten (like how to be polite and smile) or maybe some grand secret that will finally reveal the meaning of our existence and then hurrah! We all find out and then what? We drift. We become aimless. A few of us might rebel against it and start screaming ‘No, no, no! There must be more! I don’t believe a word of it!’
You don’t believe it now but you invested an entire system of belief into it before? You really believed, before you found out the truth, all of that other rubbish? You believed in money, love, honesty, truth and authority but now you refuse to believe in… you?
I’m working on a project designed to turn me into a ghost. Not a dead one, before you start with that clap-trap again, but a ghost of a former self (okay so a little bit of death is involved but nothing serious).
Derrida bangs on about ghosts be like a sort of reminder about our responsibilities to each other and I reckon that if I can pull this off then maybe I’ll remember the things that I owe myself like learning how to change and live despite the awkward predicament I’m in with the madness and all.
So how to become a ghost? I think you have to lose something first. Let’s see… my marbles? Check. My faith in our consumer-lead society? Check. My patience with those with their heads buried in the sand? Check. My lack of compassion for even the most awful people? Yup, getting there.
But being a ghost isn’t about sacrifice (which is handy because I don’t believe in sacrificing anything for anyone); being a ghost is about letting go – of everything.
Spectral impermanence. We’d love to think that ghosts hang around all the time just for us but if we take a closer look, it’s us that hang around for them. Becoming a ghost means getting on with things and not being compelled to stay in one place. Ghosts move.
They move like a plot. Plots change as you think about them, invent them and break them apart. They come out of nowhere and scare the snot out of you. Then they run off tee-hee-ing, glancing back before morphing into something you can barely recognise.
I lost a plot but four days ago it turned up and split right in front of me, wide open and said:
‘Take a look at me now.’
How could I resist?
September 27, 2010
The art of learning any lesson is to get down off your horse and suck ‘it’ up. Of course it isn’t as cruel as it sounds (although sometimes it’s a trial).
How many years have passed? I’m still learning. I’m still learning that I need to let go not only of past hurts but also things that haven’t even happened yet – the notorious Future Worries.
I’m still learning that with every episode of insanity (for want of more apt term, although I’m quite fond of reclaiming it seeing as people are so terrified of it now) an episode of reprieve will follow; the disconnection itself is not the problem, but the feelings of dread and sickness are.
I understand, now that I’ve let off a little emotional steam, that it’s been several weeks since my last bout of ‘not on this planet’ which lends reason to why I’ve struggled with it for the past five days. Regularity breeds familiarity, breeds ability to cope? I’d not like to suggest learned helplessness.
(But why does becoming familiar with difficulty mean learning helplessness? I’m not helpless, I’m off my rocker and quite happy about it! It still astounds me how even the most subtle and apparently caring language can disable anyone who acts or exists contrary to the status quo; enrich your minds and read Foucault.)
Having been so long since the last time, I’ve virtually forgotten the ecstatic euphoria, the hunger to read and learn, the fascination with the shapes and colours of the world around me; the pink rose that looked like a sodden wedding serviette, the fence that was missing new paint in a very haphazard place that took on the shape of a cat and the old telephone poles that intersected the brilliant skies with their thick wires and housed jars filled with ancient, glowing insects.
And then the sudden thrashing of the mind as it begins to become too aware of the immediacy of the world. Coming back to a dull, unnoticing reality when you have spent days in stunning places free from worry and despair is a grim shock.
I don’t blame myself for having such a difficult time.
To return is to make a mental note detailing how to land on your feet:
- Always have herbal tea at the ready
- Don’t fear cancellations
- Keep warm
- Eat foods which bring comfort
- Read a book which confirms your reality
- Sleep lightly through the day
- Avoid television at all costs
- Listen to music that feeds your soul
- Become aware of the world again through the radio (BBC Radio 4 is my choice)
- Don’t rush back to socializing
- Re-familiarise yourself with pets as they are much more understanding that humans
- Have a cry if you need to
- Speak truth
- Ask a true friend to confirm love
- Harbour no resentment for yourself, or any other being
These things happen and I have a choice to make now that my head is clearing: shall I fall into misery or shall I sit gently, allow myself to recover and come through this more prepared for the next wave?
June 19, 2010
Sometimes I question the authenticity of my brain; I wonder if perhaps it’s actually a living sponge, wibbling across the ocean floor and shuddering in delight at the notion of plankton.
Maybe it’s just one of those days. I had a passionate conversation with my niece this morning but that’s all I can say about it: it was a passionate conversation. We can only guess what it was about – generally or specifically – and that sense of mystery can be accurately applied to the rest of the day that has just passed. With the exception of learning that a friend was almost gassed to death in the night and knowing that I ate four digestive biscuits today – one more than I should have eaten, according to my calorie plan – because they were delicious. Especially the rogue one I snuck in.
In fact it became rather apparent to me yesterday evening that I’d experienced ‘one of those days’ quite recently. Although I’m assuming it’s quite recently. I can’t tell for sure when it occurred namely because I have no memory of it, but the evidence is there and true enough. ‘One of those days’ occurred because I’m missing large swathes of documents that I deem important but at the same time, painful to keep.
It’s not like me to destroy something that will come in handy to me at a later date, no matter how inconvenient it may be to retain. I don’t like to assume, but I know me well. I’ve shredded those papers in a moment of unrefined madness and bliss.
A lot of people would be upset if they found themselves in the same position. I’d like to say the same about myself but because I have no memory of the event and the reasons and emotions attached, it’s all water off a duck’s back.
I’m dreadfully sorry but I’ve lost my train of thought…
Losing a train of thought – a train is an elongated piece of fabric usually stemming from a skirt or robe. So my thoughts have elongated fabric to them? Draping across the floor and when I wish to engage the thought, I pick it up. But the thought leads me, because when you hold a train, you’re behind it – does that mean my thoughts precede me? Are my thoughts the play of differánce?
And when I drop the train, the trace of my thoughts and their play? I lose the train? Lose sight of the train? I’m left with little more than a trace of that long piece of fabric I was holding onto tentatively; I remember having it in my fingers but can’t say when or where. It becomes a shadow lodged in the corner of my eye; ever-moving. Out of reach. It becomes the memory I can’t trust.
What are my thoughts trying to tell me? Where do they want me to follow? What are they trying to teach me?
I’m regularly seduced by madness, and today has most definitely been one of those days…
April 8, 2009
There must be a point in your life where you’ve encountered the annoying instance in your chair being too low to type comfortably (check-amended) and being torn between two things: not ice cream or lovers or shades of shoes or truths or lies, but suitability.
“I’m right for this; you’ll have to dig but I’m right for this!”
“I’m right for this too; you’ll have to dig but I’m right for this too!”
On the face of it they might not seem to differ much, but you damn well know they do and it’s only on the face of it that you see where they are so similar that you understand why you’re in this mess to begin with: they’re both difficult to work with and they’re both insisting that they’re the right one for the job.
Nostalgia and a bizarre understanding of complicated ideas is making me yearn for not so much the comfort and safety, for there is no comfort or safety to be found here (oh no… not here), of dare I say it – Derrida – but his sometimes unnerving act to make me fall in love with these odd little symbols that you find scattered about all over the place. And they should make sense, right? Not in my life time.
Then again… the flirtatious coos of something I’ve not really explored that much and have only recently taken a fond interest in is in itself, creating enough emotional havoc in my already befuddled mind(s), lax and tired from being pushed too hard, as to leave my heart-strings in the throes of a perpetual, arousing hum – such are the movements that I follow in Cixous.
I feel familiar (!) with the former and at ease (!) with the latter but both shake up in me excitement, dumb-foundedness and liberation and all of the things that lead me to sit here on a Wednesday night wondering which one would be more suitable for what I want to do; so weigh it up they say and I do and discover that neither are going to give me an easy ride and here it is now, the crux of why I am so in love with what they have to say —
I only have to decide what I want to say.
February 17, 2009
Everyone falls for this at some stage and even when I’m least expecting it, when I’m wanting it least, I fall for it too; I am Derrida’s “bad reader [...] the fearful reader, the reader in a hurry to be determined [...]” (1987:4).
But it only take a nudge, an embarrassing one, to put me back on track? No. To knock me off those tracks, and with such force that I am almost ashamed to look. Why? I’ve made a fool of myself? Believed I was bigger than this? The Authority? Yeh, why not. But more so, I am ashamed to look because I am not ashamed but frightened by there being no tracks anymore. I have bare feet now.
So now I understand, in my humiliated way, that I’ve been too busy reading Cixous than to just let her in by reading. I should be offering tea (if she wants to step over the threshold) but I’m too busy arranging cushions to notice that it doesn’t matter how ordered I make it, how much I reason with it or how strongly I wish to have it. I’ll never have it, and that’s the point. I’m not The Master; I don’t have to fear rejection anymore because I am waiting for it. I am not going to pursue, unless of course I want to experience language turning its back on me.
Language can do that. And I figure it will do it whenever I give chase and name (maim) so that I’m left deserted. Which is no bad thing as long as I am able to sense other things around me, like unexpected moments when I draw sensual relations between eating orange segments and being reminded of you; long, narrow and graceful hands with fingers I could suck.
These are unexpected and they shock me because I strive for these moments but they always falsify me; then they gratify me when it isn’t appropriate for them to do so.
I am Derrida’s bad reader, who thankfully he likes; this isn’t a bad place to start because from here I can at least begin to retrace my steps (1987:4) and I can “reach a goal unhoped for”, “good surprises”, because “we never reach a goal hoped for” (1998:193).
I shouldn’t worry about this; I shouldn’t worry about being rejected by my writing. I should just do
They keep telling me to move freely; don’t worry about it. I’ve repeated myself, but why worry? It’s a thought I’ve met already and it likes me, is still talking to me which means that I haven’t been rejected. I’m certain, like Cixous is believing in the departure and (re)turn – (re)arrival – of writing. No, I am uncertain and anxious because of it. We are moving.
Why haven’t I stopped yet? Because I followed the shadow and found, whilst losing it all over again, that when I am waiting I am alone, and when I grab I am rejected.
I am uncertain, anxious. Unprepared, under prepared, underneath my preparation, inside of it, inside of me, here all the same waiting. And now I stop. I ‘cut’ (1998:191) because I am letting this go; I have ‘been’ enough for today.
- Hélène Cixous, Stigmata; 1998: Routledge, London and New York
- Jacques Derrida, The Postcard: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond (Trans Alan Bass); 1987: The University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London