See the magic cup sign of Bar Ristretto? Note the dawn timing? See the scribbled graphic of arcane book material? Feel my pride and happiness?
Mostly I’ve moaned about this Big Year, which I sum up as “1,000 words a day by rising early and chucking morning energies at work (no Facebook!) and planning/monitoring.” I’ve struggled with inertia, insomnia, and sleepy sleep-ins. But now, with just under a third of a year left, it’s all sweetness and light. Long may it continue!
Sunshine and Sydney . . . at Grumpy Bean Cafe in Leichardt I pursue why this reactor design or that succeeded or failed in the late 50s.
A busy important time that leaves no space for work but early on a Sunday I hit Cafe Central Darwin for a miserly half hour of progress. The session helps, it does.
One of those sun-blessed Melbourne winter morns. I cancel on a hike. I feel Lumberjack Cafe fill up around me. In 1967, Glenn Seaborg, Nobel prize winner and head of the Atomic Energy Commission, muses in his diary that perhaps it’s time for them to “develop a national policy” on radioactive waste. I scribble across my document of notes: “Wow, in 67, FINALLY, Seaborg tries to centralize handling of spent nuclear fuel.” I’m there, back then. The cosmos beats urgently in my chest.
This photo could only have been snapped if I rose late, at sunrise. With heavy heart, I surrender: Melbourne’s winter has, this winter, roundly defeated me. And when I write “with heavy heart,” I lie: I’m treasuring every moment of sleeping or dozing after the alarm has blared.
The 1,000 Big Year makes 2018 simple: rise early, work the morning (6 hours), shun Facebook/emails, plan/monitor, and, as a consequence, churn out 1,000 words a day. Simple 2018 might be, but right now this Big Year is a flop. I’m trying hard to compensate – aiming for six hours uninterrupted – but life’s vicissitudes ensure most days are a failure (sometimes a glorious failure, sometimes not).
What next? Will sunny Spring turn me round? If not, what next?
On an extended break from mainstream and literary fiction, immersing in murder mysteries, I nevertheless had to soak in a wonderful Louise France interview-article in last Saturday’s The Weekend Australian Magazine (originally in The Times), a most rare chat with 76-year-old Anne Tyler, Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of 22 books that have sold ten million copies and delighted readers of all reading proclivities. No author could be further from the crime fiction currently filling my head but I just could not resist. I can heartily recommend every paragraph of this intriguing glimpse into Tyler’s life and personality, but of course one of its fascinations for me is this:
Each novel begins with a one-page outline. It is then written, section by section, in longhand with a Pilot P-500 black gel pen. She revises again and again until she types it onto her computer and then writes it out again in longhand. At a final stage she reads the text out loud into a recorder, all the better to hear what doesn’t sound right and make changes.
Oh, and better still . . . Anne Tyler’s 23rd – “Clock Dance” – was published a week ago!
On the pilgrimage walk of Way of Saint Francis, I picked up a random pebble to bring home and remind me of the purposeful hiking, the daily steady application of effort. I take it to Bar Ristretto daily. It talks to me: Andres, write, just write.
You’re drafting a history and come across a seminal moment, in this case the first real electricity-producing power reactor. it’s a tale told and retold and retold and retold, and you possess copious notes and alternative story versions, so you can just rattle out your own version, right? Wrong.
Before and after a big vacation, I had come to a screaming halt in writing up Shippingport, the “first” power reactor in 1957. I couldn’t understand why the words refused to flow. It took a long time – too long a time, no doubt – to realise much of my Shippingport material is a crafted myth. I’m not saying this myth is a lie, just that much of the “real data” is hidden and the storytelling is opaque and designed for effect.
One cold sunny day, the reality hit me: Andres, go back and find out what original historical documents underpin all the Shippingport stories. Dig. Break all the events apart. Figure out what really happened and why. In three words: restart from scratch.
Now all that is behind me. Today I’m writing up Shippingport. My story might not prove to be all that different from its predecessors but it will vary in ways important to me. Call me a happy chappy!
Inspired by a Strava acquaintance who went for a run at 11:15 PM, this morning I’ve risen early, stretched, hit the gym, and reached Bar Ristretto just after the break of dawn. What a balm!
Work flows . . .