Tough days talk to you

Calder Hall

The last week had felt like swimming in setting concrete. I’ve worked diligently but the particular slab of text I’ve worked on has refused to yield cogency or fluency. And I’ve suddenly realized why: I didn’t know how to do this particular task. Specifically (and this will mean nothing to those of you who have never done this type of writing) I’ve been trying to “describe,” in an interesting, compelling manner, a nuclear power plant. Specifically the Calder Hall plant that ran for half a century in England. I had other people’s words on the subject but those references were technical or academic. I’ve come to understand that a nuclear reactor can’t be riveting of itself, it has to be described in a certain way. And what aspects do I cover? How much detail? What if I don’t have certain information? Etc., etc.,, etc. What I thought would take me two hours has taken me a week. But—and here’s the magical ending—now I know how to do it! Hooray!

Struggle Town

Cover of Struggle Town by Choir Boys

Struggle town today, yet it’s a struggle that has traction. Today was a grandsons’ day but I piked. Missing them is horrid but Chapter 7 inches on.

Never met this Choirboys song in the day but listen: “We had this dream about a chance to go / To the city streets we’ve heard are paved with gold / And I’m walking out / I’m not looking back / I’m never going back / Back to Struggle Town (wo-oh-oh-oh oh).”

Now I prefer Struggle Town.

Will not read

Cover of The Passenger by Cormac McCarthy

After a few years resisting New Year resolutions, I signed up for some this year. One of them goes: “STOP READING!” A persistent problem last year was an incessant queue of books, movies, and TV shows clamoring for my attention (and, significantly, chewing up time afterwards to produce a review). The issue was not just the time, it was the psychic pressure, somehow gobbling up my day-on-day resolve to write.

It’s taken me half a dozen iterations to reduce my culture load down to around nine items a month, mostly allocations by book groups and movie clubs. One of the first actions was to decide to not read a book I’d bought on Kindle, a novel by one of my favorite authors, the inimitable Cormac McCarthy. The Passenger came out in our spring and has been weighing on me ever since. I shifted it into another “not right now” category, then tagged it as “read” but kept it on another list, until I finally consigned it to the Kindle bin. (Perhaps it helped that many reviewers haven’t been kind to this late novel by the octogenarian.)

Ah, the relief, the relief… I’ve noticed a freeing of my focus and a much greater ability to relax after dinnertime. After so long striving to keep on top of all those genres and subjects, suddenly peace is upon me.

A massive month began today


I plan and monitor writing work based on weeks that commence on Mondays, so today was the first day of the four weeks of my February. I’ve cleared most of my decks, to use a tired analogy: resisting reading and watching TV, not much socializing, no travel, no special events. I should be able to work five to six days each week. If I can do so, I’ll make huge inroads into THE book.

Well, today was fine, a solid workday. I didn’t quite get done what I’d hoped to do, but only because I’d underestimated the task.

Tomorrow begins tomorrow morning.

Brain retraining

Complex diagram

On the exercise front, I’m increasing my “load,” that is, the total weekly kilometers, slowly and surely, seeking for once to avoid a knee or calf or tendon or foot injury. But on the writing front, today I just jumped back in and put in seven hours of labor. Should I have eased back into it? I can’t afford any delays, so no, the answer is no. I did find myself yawning, a trifle headachy, midway through the day, but I stuck with it. I guess I’m retraining the brain through bludgeoning it.

Back into Gleep and Bepo

Scribbles about early reactors

I’ve lost a bit over a fortnight of work while obsessing about the new Whole Foods Plant Based diet. I’ll now sink back into improving the draft about early British reactors with scientist-jokey names/acronyms like Gleep and Bepo. Around that time in the mid- to late-40s, other reactor names included Zeep, CP-2, Zoe, and X-10.

I feel a sense of relief. Looking back, I’ve been worried about health, diet, the whole shebang, for months now. Now I get back to doing what I love, the work.

Daily in Darwin

Lucky Bat cafe

Grandparenting in Darwin (what greater pleasure could there be?), I aimed to work full days on eight of my twelve days, amounting to around sixty hours. I came with material from three earlier chapters.

After nine days, my records indicate that I’ve never managed to do a full day, but have managed to be selfish enough to work each and every day, five hours on average. If I keep at it, I’ll come to 90% of my target. Mostly I’ve worked at this same spot at Lucky Bat, looking out at a blue sky.

And the quality of the work (always an issue)? Not bad at all. One chapter moves slower than hoped, another was whipped into shape gratifyingly quickly, and the third task just needs a day toward the end of my Darwin stay. Overall, at least on the work front, I can feel pleased with myself. And I don’t often say that.

We are mysteries to ourselves

Plot cards

I’m currently redrafting a fascinating and soundly plotted, but really messy, chapter. I last tackled it a while back, quite a long time ago. I found amongst my physical “stuff” collected during the previous draft a set of 64 “mini plot cards,” terse narrative instructions set in a particular year and focusing on one or two events. In the past, I clearly went through all my notes and thought it a good idea to structure the chapter with 64 narrative waypoints. Well, it seems the existing draft doesn’t follow those plot cards at all, indeed it is structured completely differently as five big blocks of narrative storytelling. I can find no evidence I ever used the plot cards and have no memory of constructing them. Nor does there seem any point in now doing anything with them.

I decide to copy them for a soft-copy record, file them, and move on. A mystery…


WA mountain

This Publication Big Year forges onwards, not as an unstoppable wave (wouldn’t that be marvelous?) but as disjointed periods of grinding attack followed by a regrouping onto new chapters. Each time I regroup, it feels like I’m ascending a path into hazy clouds. Who knows what is ahead?