Drafting a novel the easy way: days 60 to 70

Okay, this is getting ridiculous. I’m going to keep posting these reports of no progress until I shame myself into becoming a writer again.

If I analyse my situation with an eye to coming up with a solution, the reasoning would go as follows. My current life choices absolutely dictate that I leave the house in the pre-dawn and return after dark, leaving time only for the basic functions of working life. My commuting time, which was previously so fertile, is now taken up by unrestful dozing. I seem unable to contemplate doing any sort of cerebral work. And, I sleep a lot at the weekends. I ought to push myself harder then. But taking all that into account, there is a solution of sorts that I have resisted admitting. I have to do my drafting at lunch time. I have to find a quiet, reasonably private place where I can beaver away with my netbook; and I have to make it alright with my lovely work colleagues, who must by now be thinking that I am insanely antisocial. I can’t allow that to persist.

I’ve been meaning for weeks to write about a piece by Jeffrey Eugenides, published by the New Yorker on 24th December 2012. In this piece, a speech given to young writers that is full of insight, he describes a state of being that I think I am trying to record in this blog at the moment, a “feeling of hopelessness [that] mixes, oddly, with a perverse kind of hope, of resistance to the regrettable physical facts, and you’re filled with the desire to write something”.

Eugenides also quotes the novelist Colm Toibin on the need to write “the stuff that won’t go away. … It seems that the essential impulse in working is … to allow what haunts you to have a voice, to chart what is deeply private and etched on the soul, and find a form and structure for it.” This perfectly expresses why, 19 years after I first expressed the desire to be a writer, I have not given up, despite a notable lack of achievement. “The stuff that won’t go away.”

In the same piece, Eugenides also touches on a theme that is close to my heart, that of living in the country (which is one of the reasons I am non-functional with tiredness at the moment: I live in the country but work in the city, and getting between the twain is time-consuming). The overarching theme of his piece is writing ‘posthumously’; that is, free from constraint, feeling that you won’t have to answer to the living for what you write. According to Eugenides, “…living in the sticks is like being dead—it’s a way of forgetting that anybody’s watching. It’s a way of writing posthumously. Better, of course, if you can do it in Brooklyn, where you can get a decent meal, but do whatever you have to do.” This isn’t exactly why I want to be in the country – you can be effectively dead to the world just as well in the city, if you choose – but it’s an interesting thought that being closer to society’s pulse in the city could be an actual detriment to the writing endeavour.

There’s just one more extract from Eugenides’ piece that I want to mention, because it struck me at the time of first reading. Now I revisit it, to comment on it, I find it a little patronising, and it comes across more as the type of quote that English teachers will set as an essay title, with the dread suffix “Discuss.” But even if you extend it only so far as the clothes you choose to put on in the morning, there is some merit in the following:

“The same constraints to writing well are also constraints to living fully. Not to be a slave to fashion or commerce, not to succumb to arid self-censorship, not to bow to popular opinion—what is all that but a description of the educated, enlightened life?”

Word count: 3,097

Deficit: 3,903

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One Response to Drafting a novel the easy way: days 60 to 70

  1. Xephile says:

    Give yourself some respite!

    Two quotes from Scarlett Thomas, I retweeted these but just in case you missed them here they are!
    1. “I have just learnt that the word ‘spanking’ has been used since 1666 to mean ‘very big, large or fine’. #OED #procrastinationwithoutkittens”
    2. So it turns out that there are 157 words for procrastination.

    Both as a result of tapping into the online OED apparently. I have joined my local library so that I can do the same for free!

    Then, I recommend the following: http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/11/20/daily-routines-writers/
    Ideal for writers whose block seems to be time !! Could prove inspirational! Includes wonderful photos of Susan Sontag and Hemmingways cat! Benjamin Franklin’s daily schedule is instructive – you could easily (!) adapt it.

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