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 . . .
To work, to work, and I glance upwards at blanched grey sky. Why isn’t it still dark, I whisper inside my head, why can’t I spring out of bed early enough to blitz the day in bliss over a full morning? Surely I must do better tomorrow.
The unregimented life is chaos. Regimentation is slavery. Which of these two opposites should prevail in one’s life?
The past fortnight has seen me struggle with my core 1,000 Big Year and its writing regimen. I haven’t posted because my inner dialogue dried up while I tried to resume discipline after a dream holiday. I have, however, been thinking (a la Rodin’s man) at some more fundamental level than is usual. Nor have I been slack – I just haven’t held as much certainty.
Although I could have berated myself for “failing” aspects of this Big Year – consistently waking up early is a good example – my Big Years have propped me up. They’re daily beacons and the easier ones have maintained my self confidence. Minor big year alternations are underway and I’m almost back on track. I grin.
I’ve fled to Bawa cafe to work but let me vent. On holiday one has an idealized picture of what it’ll be like when back at the desk. Surely, one rhapsodises, concentration and willpower will blossom, fed by grandiose vacation-time goals and sunshine downtime!
We got back late Tuesday and I woke early for the next two mornings but that’s as positive a report as I can provide about the first five days back. I’ve put in decent hours but remain daunted by the immense complexity of where I left off on my narrative, so instead I’ve been working on catching up on “nuclear” news from the last two months (Trump, Iran, North Korea, small modular reactors, China’s push, Saudi Arabia’s entry). Necessary but, let’s be frank, an avoidance tactic.
Tomorrow morning comes the proper restart. So says I.
Normally I wouldn’t be caught dead propping on my arse in a seaside holiday town, but the experience in magical Rovinj has been so wonderful that my aversion to sitting still now seems wrong. Seven nights in one place! No car (and limited drawcards near town)! Laziness but plenty of restorative exercise! A rare opportunity to review what an inspiring long trip has provoked!
So . . . I depart homeward today with many changes afoot, both in the short term and into the 2020s.
Nervous but excited.