Thursday, 9 August 2012

“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” - Philip Pullman

Tonight you can find me in the garden, finishing my re-read of Pullman's Northern Lights. It makes my heart happy. It also makes me want a daemon. Badly. I might try and shock our tortoise into changing shape. But, then, I suppose I'm all grown up now. Oh dear. And if I did have a tortoise for a daemon, what would that say about my soul? Hmm.

I hear Emily Berry's first full-length collection, 'Dear Boy,' is going to be published by Faber early next year. This makes me happy. I very much enjoyed her pamphlet 'Stingray Fevers.' While we're taking 'Berry's, here, I also recommend collections by Liz Berry and Lauren Berry. Clearly there's something poetic in that surname. Emily Berry's got two cracking new poems in the new issue of The Rialto [#75], too.

I've been in something of a writing rut recently. Mainly because I haven't been reading [work and other things have been getting in the way]. I find if I'm not doing one, then I'm not doing the other, either. Obviously when I do both it's not quite at the same time. I haven't mastered that yet. However, I think I'm pulling myself out of it. This is by means of rereading; it's like comfort eating. In the past week I've been revisiting poems by Andrew Philip, Margaret Atwood and Kate Kilalea, falling back in love with the work of Ryan Van Winkle, Sharon Olds and Terry-Ann Thaxton. Also prose by Marya Hornbacher and Susanna Kaysen.

On my to-read pile for the next week or so I have new books: The Lighthouse - Alison Moore, The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Through The Window and Disappeared - Jonas JonassonLizard - Banana Yoshimoto, the new issue of The London Magazine and Swimming Home - Deborah Levy. The new Jeanette Winterson book is out next week - I'm very excited about that. I've also got poetry collections up to my eyeballs. Not reading hasn't stopped me from buying. I was saying on Twitter the other day that there's a saying: when we buy books we naively think that we're buying the time to read them. I think I've bought myself about 300 years of reading time.

So, with reading, and getting my brain in gear, I've slowly started writing some more poetry. And also writing my novel. It's dystopian; that's all you're getting from me at the moment. If anyone has tips as to how to deal with 'the writing fear' [ie 'How do I approach this?' 'Oh my goodness there's so much to do', and self-doubt etc] then please do share your wisdom. My wisdom, so far, seems to be eating lots of cheese. I'm sure this can't be healthy.

I suppose I must turn again to the quote at the top of this blog: 'When we read, we start at the beginning and continue until we reach the end. When we write, we start in the middle and fight our way out.'

I'd better start sharpening my sword... x


  1. The first paragraph: yes, one hundred percent. And I think I'll quote from now on on the buying reading time thing.

    I absolutely love reading dystopian literature (Čapek is one of my favourites), but unfortunately I know nothing about writing them.

  2. I don't mean advice about writing dystopian literature, I mean advice for writing novels in general. I often get frozen with fear, ha!

  3. I'm reading Vanessa Gebbie's lovely 'The Coward's Tale' and beginning to browse the new issue of 'Tears in the Fence' where I think we are neighbours! Ciao cat

  4. Hey Jen,
    Thanks for the courage of broaching the fear issue. I send myself scores of emails all week with notes – these are easy. They are raw material. But when I sit down to finally “write” – my heart begins to beat fast and I get shots of adrenalin in my legs.

    The one thing that does work for me – and not to presume that it will work for anybody else – is to remember the BIG FEAR. If I can somehow dance my way outside the silly fear of outcomes/reception/failure and inside the wonderfully freeing space of you’re not 25 years old any more/you’re running out of time. It’s a strange, and constantly moving, but delicate pocket. But it adds a certain spice and drive to the whole endeavor.

    So, in response to this companion dog that keeps barking “TIME IS SHORT”, I create self-imposed artificial deadlines (a quaint term you have to admit) which, for the moment, pushes into the background the ultimate big kahoona, you’re dead now don’t turn the page put your pencil down deadline.

    A gaping grave makes a rough transition or an implausible dialogue seem rather silly. And, I can go back and correct those. But, if I never get them down at all….

    Sorry for going on so long.

  5. I love that 'when we buy books we naively think that we're buying the time to read them' too! I worked out if I read a book a day (hah!) it would take me 26 years just to read the current fiction in the library where I work... but we get 20+ new books a week so it couldn't be done... makes me a lot pickier about what I read! ;-)

  6. When I was writing my creative dissertation I found the quote 'don't get it right, get it written'. I often felt paralyzed with self-doubt and second guessing myself, but that really helped me to. just. write.

    It's also very encouraging if you let someone else see a little bit of it and whose opinion you value. It's much easier if you have someone championing you on so that you can refer back to their compliments when the little voice in your head are roaring just a bit TOO loudly...

    Good luck x