Dispatches from the Land of Steady: November 15

Not sure if any sleep came to me last night, worrying about the book’s lack of progress.

I used this eloquent (some would call it wanky) notion of a “dispatch from the land of steady” to tell myself to stay the course, to just turn up every day and quietly work onward. It worked for a while in the winter months. But this device has run its course. I’m not steady, not at all.

There will be no further Dispatches.

Day 308 of the Big Years

The end of 2017 approaches fast. I won’t mince words: the big years have kind of delivered the results I’d hoped for, but I’m not that pleased. Let’s gloss . . .

Fitness Big Year – brilliant! Largely injury free, I’m exercising completely regularly and feel better than ever.

Rock Music Big Year: I’ve listened to an album on each of the 308 days, 103 different recent albums. A big tick for dedication but guess what: there’s been no epiphany, no resurrection of my old love of music. Why? Not sure.

Writing Big Year: A flop. It was probably always badly conceived, has morphed several times, has spurred great work in some periods, but now I’ve had a big slump. Since this is the only one of the three big years to be vitally important, I’m not pleased. More reflection to follow.

95% wasted?

I adore this reflection from the fine novelist Amy Tan, probably because it excuses my excessive perfectionism:

As a result, I err on the side of going into too much detail when I do research and write. I abandon 95 percent of it. But I love it. It’s part of my writing process. I never consider it a waste of time. I never know where I’m going when I write.

More from Light the Dark: Writing on Creativity, Inspiration, and the Artistic Process edited by Joe Fassler.

Shake hands. Click?

One of my favorite authors, William Gibson, writes about the beginnings of novels, his own and those of others (he dwells on Elmore Leonard’s opener in Get Shorty). Even when writing about writing, Gibson is sweet:

In any case, the first sentence is the handshake, on either side of the writer-reader divide. The reader shakes hands with the writer. The writer has already had to shake hands with the unknown. Assuming both have heard the click, we’ve got it going on.

More from Light the Dark: Writing on Creativity, Inspiration, and the Artistic Process edited by Joe Fassler.


Writing Big Year: Problem

Occasionally I could go mad, stark raving bonkers. I possess so, so much research material on the slice of nuclear history I’m currently writing up (1954-44 England), obsessively too much material, but guess what? It’s not enough!

On a particular issue – who germinated a seminal policy shift – I’m missing THE key paper. In London, I could catch a train to the National Archives in Kew and hunt it down, but the research phase is done, research is verboten. So now I sniff around other documents, papers and snippets for clues. Insanity beckons.

But I also talk to myself: isn’t this fun!