Writing Notes April 2015

This constitutes a night off. Writing this. For a number of weeks it has instead been working on a longer piece of writing – longer than I am used to anyway – and this thing is almost over. In fact it’s nowhere near being over, but it looks a bit like it looked when it was conceived in a series of eccentric and weird thoughts which connected and stuck in my mind until I had to do something about it. It became an idea and rather than just allow it to lie with all the other ideas in some far recess where some, or perhaps most, are never recovered, I resolved to do something about it, to make a start. But not yet.

No, initially there was the thinking. And this too up a lot of time and energy, and it seemed necessary to arrive at a good name for the protagonist and a good name for the thing, as if it might not be possible to start without these already decided. Perhaps this was just putting off doing what had to be done. It is possible. But I knew there was a certain amount of time in which to do what I had to do and a good think about the matter reassured me that it was possible to get it done in the time allotted. This story is for a competition, you see.

I’m still seeking approval from journal editors by submitting stories to them and entering the occasional competition in the hope of winning the prize, when the only prize I really want is to be published, as that will mean the work is good enough, in at least one person’s mind, to be read by others. It’s reassurance – that will be nice to have again, and I’m confident that we are talking about when and not if – but knockbacks are the death of reassurance (or the opposite, or something), and it can be hard.

The bright side is that there have never been so many works produced by me available and in contention for recognition before – the dark side is that I have never been rejected so much. It’s OK though. It comes with the territory. We know that. I always reply politely when the email saying that unfortunately they couldn’t find a place for my story in their journal arrives. And I wonder who it’s unfortunate for. And I say I appreciate the opportunity to be read, and thank them for their time and wish them the best. And you probably aren’t supposed to do any of this, but it seems right. Be thankful and polite. Be friendly and maybe make a joke – there’s no point making enemies, and the thing you sent in was probably a bit of a failure anyway. They should, perhaps, be publishing you because there is genius there, and even in what will come to be thought of as a naïve and inferior story with none of the invention or vitality you later came to display there will still be the hallmarks of your output, obvious to anyone who knows your work, in these early pieces. But they resolutely refuse to be the one to be able to say they published an early work by a later literary giant.

Perhaps they’re right. Not just about the one story, but about your talent. Perhaps they aren’t.

It’s part of the game, and you keep going.

The work on this longer thing, for the competition, has taken its toll. As a melancholy sort of chap it doesn’t alarm me unduly to experience period of some sort of muted sadness which lacks a proper reason for being. It can happen. But as the writing got fully underway the melancholy deepened and it occurred to me that there could indeed have been a link. Is it depressing to write, I wondered, to be working on something? Is it depressing to see even more fully than usual, because the story is a longer story, how much the produced work differs from and is inferior to the story as it originally occurred in the imagination. To note clearly all the compromises that are necessary due to time constraints and talent constraints and constraints you never even knew about before. Is it really worry? Worry that the thing you are doing might not work out, you might fail before it even gets to the submission stage, and you know how crushing that will be. Or just simply worry that your work every day will be good, and knowing that it can’t be good every day, and fretting that rewriting and polishing and editing and all those things we do after the initial thing is written (I believe some people refer to this as the first draft) might not be enough to rescue what you have done?

The answer is that there is no answer. It certainly wasn’t pleasant. For months I had been anxiously waiting for the temperature to drop in order to make sleep easier in Sydney, and when, finally, autumn came it still didn’t cheer me up. And sleep didn’t come. On some occasions I was in bed, trying to sleep, and decided to think of something restful and sleep-inducing, and the thought that popped into my mind was being in a clean, soft bed, with a chilly night beyond the bed clothes that covered me. Wouldn’t that be lovely? I thought. What a relaxing notion. So restful … and so exactly like the situation I was actually in, right then, in reality, not in my mind, in the comfy bed with hours ahead of me in which to sleep and no notion of how to actually do it.

There were other things that made me think about the symptoms of depression, but this sleep problem, and especially the weird and recurring episodes of having to imagine as a sleepy ideal something which was actually occurring made me think about it. And worry about. And worrying about depression doesn’t tend to help either. (I’m not talking about clinical depression here, but there were a few symptoms that suggested my problems weren’t all upstairs and some were bodily things.)

Anyway, the fog seems to have lifted. At about the same time that a light at the end of the tunnel was glimpsed and it seemed possible that I could finish what I was working on and it might not be too bad, I felt better. There are still worries: will there be enough time to revise and all the other things? But life just started improving. Laetitia, it must be said, has been supportive, as she always is, and gave me a bit of a kick up the arse as well, figuratively, and not violently, but just a jolt, and that has been a good thing.

So, there it is. I hate talking about what I’m working on, and I suppose I haven’t really done that – or just a little bit. It feels good to feel good, and it feels good to believe that you can produce something in the not too distant future which might not be too bad.

I won’t expect anything more than that. But I will hope.

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Published in: on April 13, 2015 at 8:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

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