Monday, 3 October 2011

OCTOBER... all over (and a few clichés thrown in for good measure)

Yep, in the old days, it would have been the end of hurricane season by now. There's a finality about October that makes me gulp a little. By the end of the month, clocks will have changed and the days will be noticeably shorter and TV adverts will have got that little bit more Christmassy.  But, for now, things are happening a little differently; I've been rocking a vest and shorts all weekend, and a lot of people in the street, even less. And, yes, things are going to change soon, but the season's going down fighting.

Writing has been pretty difficult as I'm never sure which philosophy to subscribe to. On the one hand, there's a good friend of mine who wakes up at 5am every day to write. She works a nine-to-fiver and uses her lunch break to write. She goes to the gym after work and, while she's running, she's listening to music which relates to the people and time she's writing about. She'll come home and read a book or watch a film that, again, isn't entirely irrelevant to what she's writing about. And when I see her, we'll talk about - you've guessed it - writing. And she'll probably use words like discipline or deadlines or dedication and I'll feel quite geed up by her passion, which makes me love her to bits (and if she doesn't have any success then we're all doomed!). For her, writing hurts. It's hard work. It's time-consuming. It isolates friends and relationships, and it's pretty much a second job. She writes whether she's in the mood or not, and solidly.

On the other hand, there are people I know who insist that writing should always flow easily, that you should only write when you're in "the zone", and if you don't put finger to keyboard, or pen to paper, for days - perhaps even weeks or months - on end, it doesn't stop you being a writer. For them, any attempts to impose order on the creative process is doomed to failure. In fact, one of these people writes the most amazing prose ever, but I don't think he's even written anything this year! And, yet still, there are some predictable authors you know are about to drop another book every couple of years, whereas other disappear for ages. Junot Diaz, for instance, is one of the most incredible writers I've read and it took him 11 years to write his last novel, so I doubt he was writing solidly all that time, military-fashion.

Anyway, all this to say I've found it difficult. It's always tricky to answer questions like "how's your novel?" or "what's it all about then?" or "when you gonna finish the thing?" even when it's all going well. So, on the bad days, I end up wondering why I spend time doing something so ridiculous as creating another world in my head - complete with its own stories and characters - and writing it all down. Especially as it is such hard work that rarely gives out any tangible reward. Writing fiction and poetry is a kind of madness, and I won't be the first, or the last, to say this. And calling yourself a writer without being able to point to your latest besteller sometimes seems madder still. 

It's a real pain typing the word "cliché" on here because, unless you want to cut-and-paste you have to remember that you press ALT and 130 to make the "é" symbol, which seems a little extreme/long-winded for such an insignificant but overused word. And the reason why I wanted to type the word "cliché" is even more long-winded - and perhaps irrelevant. In fact, I've decided to delete the paragraph in which the aforementioned word appears altogether. The jist of it can be summarised thus: I was doing this small-talk thing with a friend-of-a-friend kind of person I met and got really awkward about answering where I'm from (in this case, a loaded question with an answer that didn't satisfy him) and what I do (which I'm never sure how to answer for several reasons). Thankfully, the conversation veered itself into "safe" territory and we ended up discussing language and "favourite words", but it bugged me that it bugged me. And the cliché of the conversation, and the cliché of it bugging me blah blah blah, yeah that bugs me even more.

If there's anything that unites writers across various disciplines, it's that you avoid cliché at all costs. Some people get so sensitive to it that they end up coughing and spluttering at the mere hint of cliché, in conversation, writing, advertising, wherever. Whilst I agree clichés often highlight a lack of imagination, I also find many "anti-clichéists" are simply snobs. There are people among them who insist authors like Dan Brown, and all his readers, should be hanged, drawn and quartered for butchery of the English language. In fact, I went to a lecture once where students applauded when this was suggested by the speaker. Anyway, I think I'm veering of topic, since this was meant to be a to-the-point update, as promised about 2 weeks ago. But, there you have it, sometimes when I write "later", I mean in a couple of hours but on the odd occasion, it means a couple of weeks.

In any case, it looks like an interesting week coming up, with one gig at Hammer & Tongue (details to follow) on Tuesday, and National Poetry Day on Thursday and, most of all, with my drive to write resurrected, mostly because I've solved an issue I had with the novel. But I better get the week off to a good start and prepare for tomorrow!

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