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
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
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.
December 6, 2008
So here it is. Saturday night: just me, my blog, the bass of Portishead trip-hopped and remixed. Me and another ebay purchase, keeping it as cheap as I can; under £5 for a nice silver,Indian style engraved, wide wrist cuff. I’d had my eye on it.
Anyways. The purposes of this rambling. Asides from slipping between people the past few days, it’s all relatively and beautifully unstable. Contradiction? Hardly; it’s nice to be clear about instability. But this isn’t the purpose of this rambling.
I am torn. I have sooooooo many books I want to read. Allow me to list…
1. The Journals of Sylvia Plath 1950-1962 ed. Karen V. Kukil (currently reading)
2. A Lover’s Discourse by Roland Barthes (currently reading)
3. Between Us: A Legacy of Lesbian Love Letters ed. Kay Turner (currently reading)
4. How to Write Love Letters by Michelle Lovric (currently reading)
5. Rumo & His Miraculous Adventures by Walter Moers
6. Labyrinth by Kate Mosse
7. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
8. Helen of Troy by Margaret George
9. Sappho’s Leap by Erica Jong
10. Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Murakami
12. The Russian Concubine by Kate Furnivall
13. The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant
14. Geisha by Liza Dalby
15. Perfume by Patrick Suskind
16. Orlando by Virginia Woolf
That’s what I want to read, and am reading. These are the things I’m going to be reading amidst all of my desired reading:
1. Stigmata by Cixous
2. Voiles by Cixious & Derrida
3. A Philosophical Enquiry by Burke
4. The Sublime: A Reader ed. Ashfield & de Bolla
5. The Lifted Veil by George Eliot
6. Memoirs of the Blind by Derrida
7. The Birth of Tragedy by Nietzche
Amongst other tid-bits, that constitutes the named material I will be throwing myself into for the module next term. The unnamed stuff includes: material pertaining to literary practice and criticism, Aristotle’s Poetics, Longinus, Kant, a snappy little book by Phillip Shaw entitled The Sublime, and if I get time… Lyotard.
I have no issues with the material on the module’s reading list, the extraneous work that I wish to read alongside or even the books that I intend to read for pleasure.
Note: I also want to submerge myself in every inch of work I can that was written by, or is related to Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf, including essays and critique, and also the correspondences they had between various people. I’m trying desperately to get hold of The Letters of Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West (not The Letters of Vita Sackville-West to Virginia Woolf), so if anyone can help me there… please tell me how and where…
The only problem with all of this is the lack of time I have. I’ve started getting up earlier (oh how it pains me) and have ditched the laptop for long periods of time in favour of reading. This is after I’ve done the chores and all. I could quite happily squeeeeeeze in 5-8 hours of reading a day, maybe more. But. And it’s a big one. My mind.
By now, readers have probably figured out (or have been told if you’re unfortunate enough to be a friend) that my good ‘ol mind is a bit doolally. To you anyway. (Urg, the Danish I ate is rolling around – damn you food, damn you…) So yes, to you it’s all a bit delicate and new, but if you get it over and out with, just say it… go on… I have several other people in my head.
It’s like having housemates, except they’re tidy.
Anyway. This in itself causes a problem because sometimes there’s a bit of disruption due to whatever (the details are too detailed) and then there’s the problem of memory in that (urg… why did I have to try that vanilla Danish…) I usually have the company of another part of me reading up alongside and it all gets mushed into discussion and hedonistic indulgence and quite frankly … I lose all memory of what I have previously read. This occurs to the point of where I read the same line over and over without realising it and then being completely bewildered by who and what I’m reading:
You see my dilemma. I have little time as it is on top of having a skull full of marbles doused in baby oil. And I could be reading now but I’m blogging.
I guess my real question is: Do I begin reading one of my ‘desired’ texts alongside what I’m already picking my way through, or finish the smaller titles so that I may focus on Plath’s Journals (which are huuuuuuuuuuuge) for the Christmas period?
Answers in a comment box.
Ms. Dexter, if you read this – do not mock my weakness for the cinnamon roll; it is a love that knows no bounds. Not even the death in my stomach. …
November 14, 2008
Literature. It’s a beautiful thing. It does so much for us:
*Saves us from boredom
*Delivers us to boredom
*Opens our eyes
*Makes us think
*Helps us sleep
*Distracts us from our problems
*Resolves our problems
*Distracts us from that annoying snotty-nosed kid in the doctor’s surgery
*Gives us an excuse to be anti-social
*Makes us laugh, cry, scream, shiver, sigh, grumble, smirk, panic etc.
*Brings us down a peg or launches us into the stratosphere
Yes, literature does a lot for us. All that and more. For me, literature is a sort of relationship. A difficult one, complete with a scorning ‘pseudo-mother-in-law’ who wishes to gut me in public and feed me to stray cats because I’ve taken her impressionable daughter, fresh from the wide, wide world and opened her up. Searched about and found the secret that Mummy and Daddy weren’t supposed to find out about: literature suggesting that a woman … could love another woman.
SHOCK! HORROR!!! Although not that uncommon…
I’ve spent the last couple of hours trying to find some literature along these lines. Three volumes of lesbian erotica sit proudly on my bookcase. Pages and pages of smutty goings-on, tastefully written I might add, for lonely nights when a bit of titillation is needed to remind me that being single isn’t so bad.
But sometimes a night of lovingly crafted tales about girl-on-girl romps just doesn’t push the right buttons, so to speak. Sometimes you want a book to talk to you about love. I want a book to woo me with the yearnings of others who have been in my position, are in my position; I want to be told of those women who have spent their lives unashamedly holding hands and ignoring the gawks emitted by the stiff upper lip of society. I want to glimpse upon their privacy and form my own.
Considering the popularity of lesbian literature circulating the free, empowered, out and proud world, you would have thought that finding collections of letters sent between women in close relationships would be a reasonable thing to ask of the myriad of online bookstores. But no.
The fruits of my search have resulted in suspended satisfaction. The dusty philosopher in me decided upon Barthes’ A Lover’s Discourse, purely because of my interests in language on a whole. The fact that it deals with the language of love in all its forms sprinkles my decision to buy with a reassuringly fuzzy warmth.
My second choice, one that I had to really dig around for, was Between Us: A Legacy of Lesbian Love Letters (ed Kay Turner). How long it will take me to get my lonely mitts on this book is debatable.
restricted payment options, ordering overseas and buying out-of-print texts all adds up to waiting ages for the book and possibly never getting it at all. I’m cynical about buying from abroad. It could get lost. And because a lot of sellers opt for cheap transit, postal insurance is often non-existent. You can kiss tracking goodbye too. You know how it is. You order a book, you pay, the money is taken from your account, you wait, you complain, you’re reassured, you wait, you wait, you become apathetic, you forget and then about 12 weeks later, a package arrive containing a book that you have no memory of ordering or even searching for.
So where does this all lead to? Another pointless blog rambling about pointless things in order to make a pointless (and lonely) evening seem less … pointless?
Have you ever notice how people’s expressions go from disbelief to shock to horror to comatose to near-death experience when they see that you’re reading lesbian erotica in public? Try it out. Just for fun. You can find a decent enough selection of material in Waterstones. At the back. Right under the Classics.
Note: Positioning of pornographic material may vary from store to store. If in doubt, ask a gormless looking shop assistant…