Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Sunshine and Shadows

It's a while since I posted anything, and that's good, because it means I've been busy working. 

Writing. I have been busy, writing.  A novel. Or, the effing novel, as I call it in moments of stress.

For how long? What's it about? Why am I still not finished? Horrible questions, but understandable, even when asking them of oneself. 

Things keep interrupting the regularity of the actual writing, and as I don't own a snarling guard dog, don't employ a personal assistant or butler to snarl politely on my behalf, don't have the luxury of entirely shutting off the outside world while I sit in a white space being beautifully creative...

In fact, I was working on the novel up till the day I went on holiday/to visit my sister, at the end of May; but just before that I was asked to take part in something both interesting and personal, but also time consuming to help organise, so my brain and hands and keyboard have been sidetracked from novelling. Good and also not so good. Good if it works out, but not good for the concentration on the book. From my experience of it, novelling is like swimming the channel without a wet suit or a support ship; all contact beyond the fictional world is like having to drag yourself out into a boat in order to change costume and look presentable and hold a conversation and be 'normal', until you're released, and are able to dive back in again and try to rediscover your rhythm for the rest of the epic swim. Difficult.

Just what that interesting and personal thing is I'll reveal in due course (never talk about ongoing projects until the contract is signed, one of the pieces of advice my father always intoned, referring to acting work) but it relates to BBC radio and to family, and has necessitated digging through box files of archive material, much emailing and photocopying, and some degree of anxiety. Thus, whatever good my 'holiday' was supposed, in advance, to do me, it has not really worked as a rest-cure.

Perhaps I don't do holidays very well. If I looked back over each attempt I'd probably find that in most of them I was either ill or with the wrong person at the wrong time in the wrong place, except for the childhood memories of sunshiney days spend on windy Scottish beaches (I've almost forgotten the negative aspects of those, the midges, the clegs, the rain, the serious indignation at the chill of the ocean when I dared to dip a toe into it).

It would be fair to say that, at this point, my idea of leisure is to have someone else cook (or nudge delicious morsels of food in my direction at appropriate intervals) while I lie around thinking with my eyes closed, or reading books, and every so often raise my head to observe the sun or a passing bird or to wander around aimlessly until I spy a curious trinket in a junk shop or meet a friendly cat. Sometimes I'm energetic enough to look at an ancient monument, or float in a pool, too. Sometimes.

The fact is that, while a work is 'in progress' - unfinished - anything holiday-shaped is merely a postponement of the finishing, and one can only do so much displacement activity before that project returns to demand one's mental attention. Somebody said a writer's life is like always having homework, and the more I write, the more I find ideas stacking up around me waiting for time and attention - so yes, there's the rub.

Nevertheless, I have evidence of my having been on holiday, in the shape of this photo. Those are my sister's plants. I have sat in that chair. I hope to sit in it again, but probably not until I have finished my very long swim and can write The End, with some dizzying mixture of relief and joy.  (Hmm. Is the end really ever The End??)

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