February 24, 2012
I set myself far too many tasks last week. Or was it this week? I forget. Anyhow! I made a promise in an earlier post to write a series on Creativity for the Agoraphobiac, that is, anyone who struggles with going out and being around a lot of people.
As I explained, this condition is a nightmare to live with but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the activites that more socially able people enjoy.
I’ve chosen a selection of creative activites to write about in the coming weeks, activities that I find fun, educational and theraputic. The best thing is of course, you can do all of these things within the safety of your own haven and invite close friends to join you if you’re feeling sociable.
Each post will focus on one of the following and (hopefully) provide my own examples and wisdom for you to draw on:
- Drawing / sketching
- Cooking / baking
- Letter writing
I think this is a fair list for now but it may be added to in the future. Look out for the first installment, Creativity for the Agoraphobiac: Knitting, in the next couple of weeks.
Forgive me for making you all wait so long if you’ve been hanging around for these posts; I’m not feeling my best at the moment. I’ll do what I can, a little at a time, as anyone should when they’re under the weather.
February 18, 2012
Finish reading A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
- Finish the draft of my short story in preparation for either the Mslexia 2012 Short Story Competition or the Bristol Prize
- Complete the first wristwarmer I’m knitting and begin the second one
- Complete sock 1/2 that I’m knitting
- Write the next post to continue the ‘Creativity for Agoraphobiac’ series
- Draft ideas for my novella
- Redraft Scene 2, Chapter 6 of Trace
My yoga practice Write letters to friends
- All of the above without exhausting myself
Update: It’s almost 5 pm and I’ve barely touched the list. Some of this will have to be moved to tomorrow.
Update 2: Getting there. I’ve decided to pick three more I know I can accomplish by the end of the day. Number 11 obviously isn’t one of them…
Update 3: So picking three was a bit adventurous. Moral of the story: be realistic about what you can achieve in one day. I’ll do more tomorrow.
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.
February 17, 2011
- Constantly pace the room
- Think about what you’re going to write, but don’t write a word of it
- Draw it instead
- Contemplate your diction
- Ruminate over how you divide and construct your paragraphs
- Plan dinners days/weeks/months in advance
- Write lists
- Frequently check your emails, re-reading the ones you’ve read ten times already
- Try out new hair styles
- File your nails to perfection – hands and feet
- Play with your pet. If you don’t have one, go out and acquire one then play with it when you get home
- Create fantasies of your perfect life/love/job/home
- Confront your theoretical problems and live them
- Daydream about later chapters
- Invite your characters over for tea and see if they respond
- If they do, don’t be tight; get the good tea out
- Let your character dominate the conversation and listen to what they have to say
- Watch their body language
- Learn from them
- Process your plot in your mind, over and over, until you’ve perfected complete sections of drama/dialogue
- Observe time, fastidiously, counting down the minutes until you can eat your next meal
- Read. Anything. Pick up the biggest novel you can find and read it
- Read it with a dictionary by your side
- Be patient
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.
August 17, 2009
Going out is a very complicated process for me. It’s not as easy as picking up my keys and wallet and then skipping off into the sunset. For one thing, I can’t drive at the moment so I have to arrange transport, which is usually my Dad because he’s normally willing and has nothing better to do and he’s also the person I trust the most to help me escape from any uncomfortable situations.
Situations that are the reason for why going out is so difficult. When I say ‘going out’, I mean taking a quick trip to a shopping area to grab or look at something Amazon is unable to adequately demonstrate to my unquenchable curiosity. Going out isn’t setting myself up for a night on the tiles – I hate that, it’s boring.
When ‘going out’ comes around, I have to take into consideration where I’m going, how long I’ll be and how fast I’m going to have to walk in order to get through the crowds as quickly as possible. I make a base assumption about where I’m going and always accommodate for the fact that there are going to be people everywhere, like cockroaches.
I have to calculate the odds that what I’m looking for is going to be there – usually, I talk myself into believing that it won’t be there, just to avoid disappointment and give me some added relief, like a sort of prize you get at the end of a competition to compensate you for the ordeal.
On top of that, I often concoct witty sentences and dramatic escapes to cover the probability of having to communicate with other people and it all goes terribly wrong; they might not understand me because I talk too fast or they might not know what it is that I’m looking for and then make a huge fuss and call the manager who will look at me like I’ve just emerged from a nearby swamp.
Before I’ve even stepped out of the house though, I have to make sure my satchel is packed with essential urban survival kit: keys, phone, money, water, headphones to drown out the world, sunglasses (even indoors and in bad weather) to make it easier to avoid eye contact, and a paper bag. For cases of hyperventilation.
Everything is executed with paranoid, maniacal precision when I go out. Everything that could possibly go against me is calculated and recalculated, even when I’m finally home and a few days have passed. I spend a lot of time thinking of what can go wrong and what could have gone wrong.
Of course the best plan, the one most easily executed is the one where I don’t go out at all.
February 6, 2009
I’ve never doubted for a second that people suffer for their art; it’s almost midnight and will probably be gone midnight by the time I’ve finished writing this, and here I am writing this. This which is my vain attempt to push through that final wall of exhaustion so that I can get to sleep.
It’s been a couple of years since I’ve tackled dense reading material and I’ll admit that I’ve been consciously and unconsciously avoiding the reading for EN878. Not because I don’t want to read it but because it takes a lot of energy, most of which I haven’t managed to recover from the desiccating grip of the past fifteen months yet.
I’m rusty. My memory is shot. I don’t remember the majority of the day that has passed, virtually none of the week that has vanished and last night I was informed that it was in fact Thursday and not Tuesday. So I worked extra hard today, from about 3pm onwards. What I did before that time … who knows.
Bersani and Dutoit are not pleasant reading companions. Their work on Rothko is complex, lengthy and to put it in more physical terms, like trying to eat a mountain with a teaspoon; takes forever, bloody hard work, kinda kills your bowels.
In the face of material that I struggle with or have never encountered before, I put on my miner’s hat and start digging around in the pits of the internet for scraps: small references, definitions, fragments of people who have been doing this for years already, study guides that I know should be questioned for their credibility. I’ll also spend a good hour or so trawling through my growing library of text books, the majority of which come from my Social Sciences degree (oh how handy that has been, so glad I studied it – Mickey Mouse Degree my arse…) in order to find anything worth relating to the topic at hand; I’ll look for anything that can pull the layers apart so that my eyes can remain in their sockets. Perseverance eventually gave me a justifiable source to bring me up to speed on the nature of the epistemology of perception.
I’ve been rummaging about in the online journals, mainly J-Store, for my salvation. Today, I came up trumps. “Nothingness Made Visible: The Case of Rothko’s Paintings” by Natalie Kosoi (Art Journal, Vol. 64, No. 2 (Summer, 2005), pp. 20-31). Thirteen pages of clear discussion on the topic I’ve been trying to drag out of that poxy chapter by Bursani and Dutoit since I got my hands on it before Christmas. What’s even better? Kosoi discusses the chapter, and challenges it. She draws on Satre and Heidegger (all hail SparkNotes, don’t care what you say…) and she just makes sense.
Reading the article came with a price of course. One article, not a major challenge right? If you’re one to let things go or maybe if you have a life with better things to do than read the article in such a manner that you visualise every word to create scene after scene, to the point where you can almost see the author spending months researching and writing it; if you’re not one to suffer for your art, then I guess one little thirteen page article is just another page to turn.
I’m not on top form at the moment anyway and reading this thing, putting all of my effort and concentration into reading it has knocked me back a couple of evolutionary steps. Now I can’t sleep but I’m utterly exhausted. The sickest part of all this, is that as much as I have come to admire and love Rothko, I don’t intend to do carry this topic onto the required 5,000 word essay.
Not that knowing this helps me sleep or anything.