All posts tagged: 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 …

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 …

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 …

Judith Kerr: ‘You have to make a plan for the day’

“Radio Times: You’re 91. What’s the secret to a long and successful working life? Judith Kerr: You have to make a plan for the day. I get started at 10.30am. At lunchtime, I have a Martini Rosso on ice which keeps me awake in the afternoon. In the evening, I go for an hour’s walk along the Thames. It helps me to think. When I get home, I have a whisky. I’ve done more work since Tom [Judith’s husband, Quatermass screenwriter Thomas Nigel Kneale] died eight years ago than I did before because otherwise there’s this emptiness.” We read a fair number of Mog stories round here, and I keep thinking that T must nearly be ready for When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit (which the Radio Times reveals might be adapted by the BBC), so I was really excited to see this year’s Christmas Radio Times cover. But then, just as my brother & I used to as children, T disappeared with it & spent many happy hours poring over the Christmas TV listings. She …

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? …

The capacity to work feeds on itself

My children were at that time six, three and one. Their care came first. Doctors’ appointments, reading to them, rocking the baby to sleep, car pools — all that had to be done, and done as well as I could, before I could turn to myself. Confronted by this situation, I made two major decisions. The first was to invest in myself, as needed, the money I had inherited from my family. I simply poured my capital into my work […] The second major decision was to increase my energy output and use it as wisely and as fully as I could. Again fortunately, during the years from 1948 to 1961 I had formed the habit of working in my studio almost every single day. Rain or shine, eager or dragging my feet, I just plain forced myself to work. This habitual discipline came up under me to support my revved-up schedule. I simply got up early every morning and worked straight through the day in one way or another, either in my household or …

How writing gathers everything into itself

I was a writer and I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t writing. The answer was, I think, that I hadn’t understood how writing gathers everything into itself to make a satisfactory piece. My story, someone else’s story, a place, an idea, a dream, human anatomy, the mind acting on the world, vice versa, some or all and more yet unthought of, had to be combined in the right amounts in order to make a book, an essay, fiction, non-fiction, history, comedy, whatever, work. from ‘A Diagnosis’, Jenny Diski I quote scientific studies and an eighteenth century moral philosopher; I don’t offer them as intellectual accessories so much as I deploy them as tools: how can these other sources of light illuminate my own story better? This is one of the central imperatives of combining personal material with history or criticism or reportage: each thread must do some work that isn’t being done by another; that can’t be done by another…Sometimes I imagine history and science and memory are puppets, and I’m pushing them onto the …