All posts filed under: writing

Lady Emma Hamilton | edge of evening

Postcard from now

The sky is still blue, but the light is just fading. B is out in the garden, painting the shed. (I think he’s been working on rebuilding the shed for three summers! But this is the last thing — until, of course, the whole thing has to be started over.) Today was the Moose’s sports day & I’m tattooed in thin lines of red which trace the gap between my suncream & my clothes. I’m heavy-limbed and sleepy in that particular way that only comes after you’ve washed a hot, sticky day from your body & find yourself fresh in the warmth of evening. I feel like the immediacy of Instagram has increased the distance between the words I write here and the time they took place. We’ve been to Amsterdam & now we’re back. I’ve read books — good books that I want to write about. But, since Pops stopped napping — which is now way-back-when (maybe this time last year?) — I seem to have lost my previous blogging routine. Anyway, it’s here. You’re …

Her Thirty-Seventh Year by Suzanne Scanlon | edge of evening

Her 37th Year: An Index

HAMLET (see also: Baby, The), We watch three film versions of Hamlet. I cry even when it is Bill Murray playing Polonius. I imagine my baby as Laertes. “Do you know how it is when someone dies? Birth is like that, too, just in reverse,” I say. Just before you announce the impending awkwardness, I ask aloud, “How could I have created something, someone, whom I will someday lose?” I think, How could life mean anything more, ever, ever again? . JOY (see also: Mother, Question, and Skunks), as experienced when in a dark room I lie next to Magoo and his cousin. Every so often, just when I think they might be asleep, a high voice with a serious question: “Are there skunks in Pittsburgh?” or “Do old-fashioned cars go faster than convertibles?” Four-year old musing & inquiry; for a moment I wish that Magoo would be four years old forever, that I might spend a life in this room with two four year old boys. There are times it feels like Heaven to …

Viburnum | edge of evening

As if your life depended on it

You must write and read as if your life depended on it. That is not generally taught in school. […] To read as if your life depended on it would mean to let into your reading your beliefs, the swirl of your dreamlife, the physical sensations of your ordinary carnal life; and, simultaneously, to allow what you’re reading to pierce the routines, safe and impermeable, in which ordinary carnal life is tracked, charted, channeled. […] To write as if your life depended on it: to write across the chalkboard, putting up there in public words you have dredged, sieved up from dreams, from behind screen memories, out of silence — words you have dreaded and needed in order to know you exist. from ‘As if your life depended on it’ by Adrienne Rich, in ‘What Is Found There: Notebooks on Poetry and Politics’ It comes back to this then: starting over. Slowly, intentionally. Choosing what to set aside and what to do. Stacking up the days, each the same as the last. I’ve found that repetition …

Postcard from now

Last weekend we celebrated Bonfire Night with friends. Six children sat around our table eating pizza, while at the other end of the room a group of adults tried to chat over the laughter and fun. I moved between groups, happy as I always am when the children are mainly looking after themselves: all carefully counting the sausages to make sure that no-one took too many, helping Pops when someone took his glow stick, amusing themselves by trying to learn from the oldest among them how to make rabbit ears from their napkins. When we went out to the fireworks on the fields beside our house it was so mild that the children were taking their coats off. Two of them were even in shorts. It’s colder today, the sky blue between showers. I had a conversation earlier in the week with someone who felt just as I do. How, he asked, can it be nearly the end of the year? The last thing I remember it was just coming up to the summer holidays. I thought that …

Making friends with reality

In a way, work is like a love affair. It demands commitment, absorption, and care. The difference is that it is a love affair with oneself, or at least with one’s creative abilities, and with an abstract world of ideas. Learning to Work, Virginia Valian People have a conception, however implicit and unarticulated, of who they ‘really’ are, which I am calling true self and others may call identity […] Some people […] cannot point to a period in their lives in which they were able to act in accord with their true selves. Such people may thus have particular difficulty in trusting their perceptions of their true selves. They impugn their motivation, for example, by thinking, “if it’s so hard for me I must not want to do it.” […] My claim is that people are not wrong about their true selves. A related claim is that to encourage someone to doubt his or her true self is to do them the gravest psychological disservice.Solving a Work Problem, Virginia Valian In planning each weekly …

Prosaic, with possibilities

The older children are back at school. Possibility quickly collapses into the usual rhythm of school days, swimming lessons, reading-books, and packed lunches. The Moose has once more declared himself a vegetarian. ‘Where do carrots come from?’ he asks me suspiciously and I try to remind him of the summer we grew them in a window box by the back door. T has given out her birthday party invitations and soon it will be time to hang out the bunting. For the first time she is maintaining the list of invitees and acceptances herself, carefully ticking friends off in the notebook she picked out in a French supermarket. I’m trying to feel my way back into everything. I seem to be reading far too many books at once. Currently in progress: The Story of a New Name, the second of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan cycle, which I’m reading hungrily ever minute I can; Renata Adler’s Speedboat, paused while I gulp my way through the Ferrante; Tinkers by Paul Harding, also paused at almost the mid-point and …

Reflections & intentions

The weather is mild again. The little ones are back at school. The Pip-Pop cried after we’d dropped them off and were walking to town. ‘Popsy go to school too, Mumma. Popsy want school.’ I feel jet-lagged — waking a full three hours earlier than I was by the end of the holidays. Through the loft window the sky is a dazzling turquoise and the clouds — fat and white with heavy gray bases — are racing by. If I think back, without looking, at what I read last year these are the ones I loved: Crossing to Safety, The Lowland, Leaving the Atocha Station, Light Years, A Suitable Boy and Daybook. And for this year I have a few projects in mind. I’d love to read/re-read all of Penelope Fitzgerald & Michael Ondaatje. I’d like to continue with my pencil in my hand, and I want to continue to start & end my days with a poem. T (seven & a half) is leaving me far behind her. At breakfast she told me the …

Dear Sarah

This week I made my first submission. This week I also received my first rejection. It snuck into my inbox while I was upstairs bathing children. Recently, I’ve been thinking about my working life. A succession of jobs that involved writing in one form or another, but didn’t involve my name. I’ve worked for an MP and ghostwritten articles & speeches. I’ve worked for an organisation where everything I wrote reflected the views of its eminent Fellows and was phrased in the first person plural. I’ve worked in a Government department where my words and phrases were put into the mouths of Ministers and printed in glossy policy documents, but my own name was invisible. In all these places (with the exception of the MP), there have been layers of sign-off; a hierarchy of people modifying or agreeing with my words and approving their release into the world. And, for the most part, I found that frustrating. But now, I also think that these were the jobs I chose. The places I felt comfortable. The …

Solitude

“It is in a house that one is alone. Not outside it, but inside. Outside, in the garden, there are birds and cats. […] One does not find solitude, one creates it. Solitude is created alone. I have created it. Because I decided that here was where I should be alone, that I would be alone to write books. It happened this way. I was alone in this house. I shut myself in — of course, I was afraid. And then I began to love it. This house became the house of writing. My books come from this house. From this light as well, and from the garden. From the light reflecting off the pond. It has taken me twenty years to write what I just said.” Marguerite Duras, Writing Still thinking about these words, which I first read a few weeks ago in a car full of sleeping children. Yes, we create our own solitude. Or — and how to stop doing this? — we prevent our own solitude. Of course, I was afraid, …

No effort is wasted

“Just doing the work is the whole battle, we always say: making contact. Sit with the novel, be in it. Turn off the internet so you have nowhere else to go. Only rarely is it satisfying. Rarely is there a great chunk you can point to at the end of a day and say, here is what I did today! More often there’s the vague fear you’ve made no progress at all. Where did those hours go? Where is your work? What is this adding up to? You have paid someone else to be with your child while you did this bullshit? The thing continues and continues to feel like a wreck. But it’s your wreck. And you are working on it, even when it seems like bullshit, eating your time and appearing none the better. No effort is wasted, says the Bhagavad Gita on a post-it I stuck to the bottom of the giant computer monitor. But God, some days are a slog.” Elisa Albert I‘ve read Elisa Albert’s essay Where Do I Write? …