Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Plot We've Got, Quite A Lot

Okay, we're into the Quest Narrative bit of the writing process now - ie, I spent yesterday Struggling with Obstacles but today managed to Overcome them. I like it when my life has a plot.

So, yesterday was a bad day (soundtrack provided by R.E.M.). The morning got eaten by various life-admin things - we're fighting with J's estate agents to get some repair work done to damage the previous tenants did to the house, and she's finding it particularly stressful, because it destroys any possibility of her getting into the deep-trance state in which she does her writing. So after we spent a few hours dealing with the agents, we went out for a walk to come down from the adrenaline, and looked at the gorgeous jewellery in Pieces of Eight (look at these awesome pieces by Craig Spark), then had lunch at the Tin Pot, then went home to work.

Now here's a weird, stupid thing. I really enjoy (and am pretty good at) being J's life-coach: telling her sternly when she's not in a fit state to work, explaining to her at great length that being a writer is like being a factory owner as well as a factory worker, and sometimes you have to do maintenance work to the machinery to make it work properly, so it's counterproductive to sit down in front of the computer and force yourself to write words if your writing apparatus isn't working right - and since writing comes from your brain and your feelings and your body all at once, that means you have to factor a fair amount of working-on-yourself into your working time.

But for some reason I'm stubbornly convinced that none of that applies to me, and that the only possible reason for me not sitting straight down and producing a smooth flow of brilliant, erudite and lucid prose is because I'm a bad person. So I spent quite a lot of time yesterday sitting at the computer feeling inadequate. But I found quite a good solution to it, I think: I opened a new document and forbade myself from deleting anything and just wrote down everything I was thinking about, and it was partly embarrassingly emo and partly quite productive. The best thing I figured out is that starting is hard: I've been spending a very long time writing things and looking at them and going But that's not true! and deleting them again. And it's hard to work out whether that's just because I'm nervous about starting, or because I'm actually doing good work thinking about how I want to position this book - one of J's friends says that the first line, page, chapter of a book teaches the reader how to read it, so a lot of decision-making about genre, tone, style, and information has to go into those early parts.

So that was probably okay work, but I was still miserable at the end of the day, so I cooked, which was cheering. (The other hard thing about starting is that I try really hard to become disembodied when I'm starting a project, it turns out, which means that I really hate eating anything not made of beige carbohydrates and want to live on Diet Coke, crisps, doughnuts, pasta, and bagels; also, I don't move around, and the keyboard I ordered off ebay doesn't work, so I'm typing straight onto my laptop, which is wicked bad for you, apparently. But! I had coffee/food with A on Tuesday and we're going to try and find a tai chi class together, so that'll help, I think, though at the moment I'm still just feeling nothing but resentful that I have to have a body.)

But then today, after a couple of hours on the estate-agent thing, we did a ritual to clean the house of bad vibes, and I sat straight down and wrote 3000 words by dint of (a) turning the Internet off and not 'just checking my email' before I started and (b), um, changing the font I was working in, from the serious and grown-up Gill Sans to the more casual and 'this-is-just-a-first-draft'-feeling Handwriting Dakota (here's the quote I'm working on in the first chapter in that font: it's from Michel Serres' awesome book Rome: The Book of Foundations).

Oh! And I figured out what I'd done wrong with gender in the dissertation: I talked as if gender was prior to/ outside the organization of political space. As if people were men or women (which is bad enough) before they entered political space. So that's embarrassing.

Okay, I have to go now, I'm going to dinner with J at Shakahari's to celebrate being here, and being at work, and everything. Yayy!

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