The requirement: up early and draft the words. That’s what I call steady and that’s what my Writing Big Year, 2017’s main effort, entails. But on this gray Monday, with exactly twelve weeks remaining, a soft despair grips me.
So many symptoms abound, the clearest being sleep-ins, but I’ve been through this before and the true underlying reason is simple. I’m afraid. The words I’ve drafted are gauche and this next section doesn’t admit an easy opening para.
I now seek two ways forward. One is the equivalent of open-heart surgery, a jolt to how I do things. The other is quiet, selfish immersion, the mind churning options. Neither is easy to do when in the thrall of despair.
For writers and wouldlovetowrite-ers, burrow into Light the Dark: Writing on Creativity, Inspiration, and the Artistic Process edited by Joe Fassler, which assembles 46 of his “By Heart” columns in The Atlantic. Fassler asks every author: What inspires you?
I’ve only begun my read but I’m hooked. How’s this for powerful? 30 years ago, brilliant author Sherman Alexie was gobsmacked by a single line of poetry, remembering:
I’d thought about medicine. I’d thought about law. I’d thought about business. But that line made me want to drop everything and be a poet. It was that earthshaking. I was a reservation Indian. I had no options. Being a writer wasn’t anywhere near the menu. So, it wasn’t a lightning bolt—it was an atomic bomb. I read it and thought, “This is what I want to do.”
Some years were key for my book, others not so much, 1958 being one of them. Answers to the question: Charles de Gaulle returned to power and one reactor design received patronage; and England’s favored reactor design found favor in Italy and Japan.
Took me ages to sort that one out. Not sure if it matters.
Wanna write a murder mystery? Can’t come up with a plot? Look around! A guy who married badly for just one year kills himself. Will his widow get the loot? Turns out he composed a text message on his phone, leaving his belongings to his brother, not the widow, but never sent the message. Is it a valid will? The parties battle in court. The widow loses. Imagine Detective Bosch: hey, was it a suicide after all?
Last day at the heavenly Lucky Bat Cafe, some 10 kilometers north of Darwin’s centre. Workday number 6 of 8 Darwin days, the other 2 brilliantly spent birding. I haven’t had long workdays here but after a slow start last week, they’ve developed into wonderful, intense, don’t-look-up drafting stints. Steady, steady, steady.
Reading John le Carre invites one to write twisted, dark romps of spy thrillers. Plots worthy of any thriller hack but limned with virtuoso wordsmithing! I dashed through A Legacy of Spies, a final (I believe) le Carre trot through his world of Smiley. This may just end up as a sidelight to the author’s classics, but a complete pleasure nonetheless. By the way, George Smiley isn’t given a star role here but what we get is pitch-perfect. My recommendation? Grab, devour, and commence writing . . . you too have a Smiley within you.
A new tech of the magical atom . . . countries smashing each other to dominate . . . PR galore . . . all described in the flat tones of a textbook. My task is to bring it to life. My mind won’t shape the clay. I find this tough.
Checking in. It’s the blessed Lucky Bat Cafe in Nightcliff. Darwin exudes heat (a water chiller!), though it’s not as life sapping as I found it during November and March visits. This time, somehow, my patina of perspiration relaxes and distances the world. My window seat chimes with cafe sounds and music and voices, yet silently nurtures a quiet pen at work. Outside: parked cars, a blue dog bowl of water, exotic palms low and tall, a blue sky whose blue isn’t like Melbourne at all.
Here I work swiftly, without hesitation. A cocoon timeless.