Well, I missed posting last night, because I was out gorging myself on a brilliant Indian dinner at a restaurant with the 2017 KSP Fellows and Residents Group– the life of a writer is a hard and dismal one, no?– so I missed posting an update.
They let me out in public, in the company of nice people. It’s like they don’t even know me.
Needless to say, I’m pushing on, and rediscovering some long-unused writing muscles into the bargain.
I’ve mentioned before that my day job has a habit of eating my life: it’s high-stress, can require me to work extended hours and extended weeks (I have, in the past, worked 21-day weeks), and generally dominates so much of my time and thinking that personal tasks, hobbies, and sometimes the simply act of being just me (as opposed to the team leader, the City representative, the community punching bag…) gets discarded and forgotten.
This goes doubly for writing. By the time I’ve worked a long day, de-stressed, spent time with my family, and contributed my share to the domestic tasks required just to keep a family of four on the go, I’m in no shape to write. Or if I am, it is simply a damn sight easier to put it down when I reach a problem point than it is to subject myself to working at the task– if writing isn’t a joy, why am I doing it when I have such a short window for joy each day in the first place? As a result, I’ve slowly become a flabby writer, a lazy writer, a writer who would much rather be doing anything else than working out my skills and maintaining my authorial muscle tone.
Here, I don’t have that luxury. I’m here solely for the purpose of writing, and rediscovering a sense of graft and discipline has been a priority.
These last couple of days, I’ve reached the end of my plot vision– that small section of narrative that I can see beyond where I stand each morning– where Ghost Tracks is concerned. The words have not flowed as easily, because I haven’t had a clear vision of where they are heading, and I’ve lost trust in my ability to wing my forward and make everything work. I’ve had to sharpen my critical faculties, so that I could provide a mentoring session to an aspiring author and give meaningful and useful advice and critique. And I’ve finished the one short story I had set up, and am having to rediscover how to crash research into a short period of time so that I can get back to the desk and get a word count down.
These are skills I’d let slip, and have had to push myself to rediscover. I’ve managed to maintain my self-appointed target of 2000 Ghost Tracks words, taking the overall total past 28,000, but it’s been hard, and rewarding for that hardness.
I have a tendency to view myself, as a writer, the same way I viewed working as an improvisational comedian: spontaneously drawing upon my creativity and instinctively dipping into a well of material and references quickly enough to skate across any surface. What I had forgotten is that such an approach requires the most stringent, through, and extended preparation: what you see when I fling words out effortlessly is the quick flash of the moment, but it’s the two decades of discipline and training that you don’t see that enables me to do it.
It’s the discipline and training I’ve let slip.
So this past week has been good for me. I’ve been forced to work, and then work beyond where lazy habit has taken me. And I have no excuses, no reason to turn away when things get difficult. I am serving an obligation, one I gave to the Centre, and to Luscious, and to myself: to be a writer, in the most professional, productive sense of the word. I’m in fight camp, and it’s fantastic.
The next trick, of course, will be to maintain this discipline when I get back to the World, and that self-same stressful job that lurks just beyond next weekend with its smile full of sharp teeth. But for now the writing is the right type of work, the kind where you know the pain in your muscles is because you’re building muscle mass, and you’re going to come out of it the other side lean, and hard, and buff as fuck.
Id vuzz a dahk und stormeh nahht….