The struggle against neglect

2 January, 2007

I am now at the beginning of the third week of my month-long annual holiday, and things aren’t going great.

The big plan was to start work on and even finish my novel. Unfortunately I am still bogged down in the note-making stage. I have largely finished making notes of historical details to insert into the book for versimilitude, but for them to be useful I now have to type them into a searchable document, correcting errors as I go. It’s not stimulating work; it’s boring and lonely and not very creative.

I also have made no headway into catching up on the sleep I have lost over the past three years. I got into bad sleeping habits due to a noisy upstairs neighbour, and now, having moved, I am unable to change my behaviour. Living alone doesn’t help with this – living alone is basically a great way to acquire eccentric and detrimental compulsions, and to lose the social impetus which is so important for normal living.

I haven’t given up yet. I’m hoping at least to finish typing up my notes, and, more importantly, to finish the detail of my plot outline. There are a few sketchy plot points which hopefully will sort themselves out once the scene is properly set. I’m particularly happy with the discovery of the boneyard, something I had forgotten about until my recommencement of work two weeks ago.

I’m reminded of the movie American Splendor, which I saw a couple of days ago, and of an essay I read years ago in an underground book mail-order catalogue. The essay said that ordinary people with creative ambitions have been sold a lie, because most of the famous artists of the last century have been “trust fund babies”.

It is true that if you read artist biographies, you’ll often find that they just wander around to interesting places, meeting interesting people, and never have to break their backs all day, or numb their minds with clerical work, or grit their teeth against the endless idiocy of “customer service”. This isn’t true of everyone, but it is true that successful artists have invariably had strong emotional support and creative nurturing. We whose families and friends gave not one damn, or even derided and attacked our efforts, are the losers in this equation. We are lucky if we merely reach old age with our sanity, a vestige of health, and the meagrest savings.

I’m struggling to be the exception to this rule.

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2 Responses to “The struggle against neglect”

  1. maddymoo Says:

    I may have mentioned – I started a “serious” clean-up of my house in December 1999. This clean-up has been ongoing (cough) ever since, though more off than on. It doesn’t matter how much time one has, or what deadlines one sets oneself (in moo opinion) – things get done when they get done, and often, I think, in our case, at the most inappropriate times (eg, you doing stuff when you should be sleeping, and me doing anything other than cleaning the house).

    Aside: I tend to feel uncomfortable when you discuss your writing methods, because they are so unlike mine. Me, I sit down, and hopefully the words come out coherently. Rewrites are best done ten years after the initial “finished” copy. You are different: you plan, you make notes, you research… then again, I may be all dried up. It’s years since I’ve written anything longer than a silly poem. So, good luck with the novel. 🙂

  2. eyeresist Says:

    I don’t know if I do anything useful when I should be sleeping – too little energy! I can’t be complaisant and say ‘it’ll get done when it gets done’, because this self-discipline problem is seriously screwing up my life.

    Writing methods: I too write better when I just sit down and do it. Unfortunately, the stuff I want to write requires research. My first attempt at a novel – while having the advantage of a loose, Burroughsian structure, so I didn’t have to wrack my brains getting the plot to work – bogged down in research when I wanted a touch of realism in an historical setting.

    With the new project, research is still required, and I think the most efficient way to incorporate it into the process is to have all the knowledge where I think I’ll need it, before I get down to the writing. That way I won’t have to think too much when doing the work.

    As for making plot notes, it’s not always necessary for a short story, but for a novel I think I need some idea of where I’m going and how I’ll get there. Some famous writers refuse to make notes because they’re afraid of committing to something that mightn’t work, or of depleting their inspiration early. I make notes because I have a bad memory, and because I think it’s hard to pay attention to overall structure when you’re doing the wordage. (And I’m sure you too have had trouble with characters yammering on endlessly because you can’t figure out what the point of the scene is.)

    Hmm. Maybe this should’ve been a post! Oh well.


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