March: a Sense of Power

Muahahahaaaahh.
Ahem.

This chapter covers a variety of concepts, from anger to synchronicity to why people would prefer to think there is no God (“Most of us are a lot more comfortable feeling we’re not being watched too closely”).

“Anger is our friend. Not a nice friend. Not a gentle friend. But a very, very loyal friend. It will always tell us when we have been betrayed. It will always tell us when we have betrayed ourselves.”

This idea of anger as a marker of transgression or trespass also comes up in another book I have been reading of late: Boundaries – which is an example of synchronicity.

I will cheerfully admit that I did most of the work for this chapter fairly early on in the month (i.e. half way through it) and my mind has been elsewhere since.

I was surprised by some of the things which unburied themselves in the “Detective Work”.

“My favourite musical instrument is” the low whistle – which I have never held, let alone learned to play, although I once discovered someone in New Zealand who makes them.

“If I wasn’t so stingy with my artist I’d” buy her (her? my internal artist, like many children, doesn’t seem strongly gendered) some really flash stationery. Maybe some ink-bottles.

Pointless Archaism

“If it didn’t sound so crazy, I’d” write a supermarket musical. What do I have to fear from crazy? One day I’ll do it.

I am haunted by the fear that if I commit to this writing life, if I let the dreamer loose, I won’t be able to keep making myself go back to work.

With the regular exercises, further surprises ensued.
I was supposed to describe 5 traits I like in myself as a child. I came up with one: my ability to pun. (Whether anyone else liked that in me as a child, I know not.)

That was a bit depressing, but I did better in the field of childhood accomplishments (e.g. started reading Agatha Christie at 6 1/2).

Agatha Christie

Habits! If only changing habits was as easy for me as it is for nuns. (Yes, that’s what I was like as a child.) Wasting time online, procrastinating, feeling guilty instead of getting on with things…
Physical habits are relatively easy to break, I think. It’s the ones in your mind that most closely ensnare you.

The lists of people I admire and want to meet (dead or alive) were confusing: great writers such as Chesterton, Lewis and Stoppard; and a rather strange mix of people including the Pimpernels (Scarlet and Tartan), Francis, Fanny Crosby and Edith Cavell.

If anyone can tell me what the common thread is there, I shall be much obliged to you.

In other news, I spent the entire long weekend (four days in New Zealand, Lord be praised!) in Not Writing. I meant to write, but I meant to do many other things, and it turns out four days is only four days long.

One thing which I did mean to do (and did) is create something for my Artist’s Date. It still needs a few finishing touches, but here’s a clue:

Can you guess?

Writing Conditions

Can you write under any conditions?

Or are you like me, fettered by rules you don’t consciously understand? (I started writing this on a bus, which is Okay, but rather messy. NZ bus drivers…)

My favorite bus poem

Writing at the Dreaded Day Job is, for some reason, Not Okay. It’s not the DDJ that has the problem, I hasten to add – although I’m sure it would if I was writing ‘on the clock’ – but me.
It just doesn’t feel right.

Perhaps it’s a dread of curiosity – a co-worker is bound to ask what I’m doing (leaping from branch to branch of a young oak tree, if you must know), and then the questions follow on.
It’s not that I’m ashamed or embarrassed of my writing, it’s just that it’s usually too soon to share it.

And it’s always too soon to share the dream of ditching the DDJ in favour of writing full-time. Pretty near top of the list of Awkward Conversations To Have With Co-Workers is discussing the steps you are taking to be able to shake the dust of your 40 hours a week with them from your feet.

Talking about wanting to shake the dust is one thing, especially when people are digging out their contribution to the weekly lottery pool. (I don’t.) But to reveal that you are actually taking steps, however small, is Not Done.

escape

The Done Thing is to endure (while grumbling) as long as possible, and then present them with a fait accompli – preferably a new job which can be seen as a step down in either pay or status, so your co-workers can feel faintly smug about sticking it out a bit longer.

But I digress.
To return to the subject originally raised, some conditions assist with writing, and some don’t.

I don’t think I’m a particularly finicky writer – as previously mentioned, I can write on the bus (although whether I can subsequently read what I wrote is less certain). As long as the brain-batteries haven’t gone flat, I can puddle along. But not at the DDJ.

Some famous writers have worked under unhelpful conditions – or even sought them out.

Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin while raising seven children and sheltering fugitive slaves on the Underground Railroad.

J. K. Rowling wrote the first draft of The Philosopher’s Stone in cafés – according to rumour, because she was too poor to heat her flat; according to her, because taking the baby for a walk was the best way to get her to fall asleep.

A number of writers have turned to alcohol or other drugs to help them along. A number have also died before their time. Take my advice: save the booze for the launch party.

Some write in bed, others in the bath – which didn’t work out too well for Jean-Paul Marat:

The Death of Marat – Jacques-Louis David

Some write lying down, others standing up. Some will only write with a pencil, others insist on a fountain pen. (Some still use typewriters.) Some compose directly on the computer.

Myself, I find I write faster on the keys, but I think better when I write by hand – it gives my mind time to see what happens next.

What about you?
Are there places you like to write? Are there places you can’t write? And how?