Life Is Like A Song

Lately that song is Suzanne Vega’s Tom’s Diner.

Real life is happening all around – and let’s be frank, the reported news, in any medium, is universally grisly – and I am only a spectator, waiting at the counter for my coffee, too inconsequential to be given the full cup, and making the best of it. And it’s okay, because people watching is what people who are writers do (assuming I can still call myself such). I watch life happen to other people, until it’s time to catch the train, only I don’t know from which platform, or my destination. Out there, somewhere. Single, not return.

Single.

If it sounds like I’m moaning, I’m really not. Maybe a bit, but, don’t we all? I never was a Polly-Anna type. Having stepped back from social media, it’s become harder to fully participate again. So I lurk, non-malignantly. Leaving Facebook helped save my sense of self, although paradoxically means that I have fallen off the edge of the planet/am dead to some people. Oh well. Twitter is the stream I dangle a few toes in, and sometimes a hand. I just can’t seem to get into the swim though. Instagram is for pretty things. I like pretty things. They’re restful.

 

I can’t stop thinking. I can’t stop thinking long enough to do, to make, to write. And I must. I keep promising myself that I will. But, WHEN?

 

Oh, help.

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Voyage and Return

You may have noticed – or you may not, and indeed, why should you? – that it’s been a while since I posted anything here. And there have been good reasons for that. Perhaps too many. But the summer was hot, and I was quiet. Books were read, stories drafted, thoughts were thought, and mostly not acted upon. Autumn was harder, but with more of the same. And I got older. And I cut my hair. That last thing is a thing I am incredibly happy about. I know it’s only hair, but still… it’s been more than a decade since I last had such short hair, and it makes me feel sassy, and sophisticated, and possibly other things beginning with s (stylish? silly? saucy? serene?).

Around the same time I discovered a little snippet in the wilds of the internet – oh all right, it was Facebook – a quotation from Carl Gustav Jung:

I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.

It isn’t a cure, it isn’t even a complete answer – to a question that is both unaskable and unanswerable – but it HELPS. So I’m choosing. I don’t pretend to have reached any particular destination on my personal voyage in order to begin the return journey. This is just a way station.

In the meantime, there is Christmas to prepare for, and satsumas to eat (the one I’m eating right now is a bit of a disappointment; too watery and not sharp enough. Perhaps the next one will be better), and words to write and edit, and I still haven’t written the Christmas cards. But my hair looks fabulous.

Baffling creativity.

The Muse – one’s Muse – is a strange beast. Flighty even. But I trust mine. Sometimes, it is true, it does let me down; who has not experienced the allure of a new idea, a new story that promises so much, yet once the writing of it is begun, it peters out, dissolves into nothingness, leaving the writer frustrated, peevish, and in my case, sleep deprived and a nightmare to live with? I know that some of you are nodding in agreement – I’ve read your Facebook posts ;  )

But when the Muse leads me straight and true, and the words flow and time bends – those are the good times. When the scribbled notes that last week appeared only as a random agglomeration of feelings and half-thoughts merge into a cohesive theme, expression, or even – dare I whisper it – a plot, those are the good times. This is why I trust my Muse, even when I am led to write things that I would not normally consider writing, never mind reading. There is no limit to creativity, only moulding, shaping, refining.

The writer writes, the reader reads. Once the chosen words are committed to the page, after all the processes of editing, redrafting, swearing, staring out of the window, finding wondrous new ways of procrastination etc, etc – in short, once the piece is actually finished, then the writer’s involvement in the reader’s experience is over; the old gap between – perceived – authorial intent and the reader’s expectations/experiences, begins here. The writer is not responsible for the reader. The beginnings of that chasm can be seen in the crit process. There will always be those in the crit circle who ‘get’ the writer, and there will be those who see something else on the page, something that the writer didn’t intend, didn’t envisage, or simply did not put there. I find this curious – baffling even, but I have to remind myself that I am not responsible for other peoples’ stylistic preferences, or prejudices. For instance, someone recently made what seemed to me to be a very curious assertion in relation to a short story draft. They suggested that it was wrong for one character to say of another that she looked like a mermaid, because they were nowhere near the sea. The more I think about it, the more baffled I become. Never mind the issues of voice, of what is in keeping for how the characters think, speak, act, never mind even the blurring of the line between realism and verisimilitude. Is it just me? Or is that simply… baffling? (And by the way, this is not to imply that I do not respect the opinion of the one who made this suggestion – I do. But I’m still baffled.)

That sort of a day.

I have the day to myself. Bliss. I have a stack of  things to do. And so far I have done none of them. Instead I have foozled about with a few word games on Facebook, messed about on Twitter, drunk twice my usual intake of caffeine, and stared out of the window. As I type this (something I’ve been meaning to do for a few days), I have the second episode of the BBC4 series, In Their Own Words, British Novelists on in the background for company. I find the plummy accents of Doris Lessing and A.S.Byatt strangely comforting. I also like that this episode begins with the publication of The Fellowship Of The Ring.

The day feels strange though. Not quite real. Outside alternates between clouded gloom and blinding brightness. Autumn is beginning to makes its imminence felt. The roses have given up – the only colour in the garden at the moment comes from a few deepest purple buddleia, splashes of an orange flower that isn’t hemerocallis (I can’t remember what it is, and my husband isn’t here so cannot remind me), a few late honeysuckle, and the last of the apples out of reach in the tree at the bottom of the garden. Everything feels in between; everything is waiting for the signal for the next phase to begin, waiting for the bridge between Now and Then to be completed. I saw this in the sky yesterday evening, the ending of summer, the beginning of autumn. The sky was a metalled grey, and the sinking sun had left the valley depths; the woodland directly behind my garden was in dark green shadow. But the trees on the hillside behind were bathed in warmth of the last light of the sun (I love that phrase), glowing golden green – a startling contrast to the sky. And through the sky directly above arced a perfect rainbow. And then last night, the waning moon lit up the woodland, and a few constellations hung in a sky finally clear of clouds.  And it was cold. I shall miss the warm summer evenings.

I love looking at the night sky, although most of the time I don’t really know what I’m looking at, beyond a few of the constellations. But before the recent rains came, and before the moon was full, there was a perfect night, of such clarity as I rarely see, even in my sheltered valley. I went out; the air was chilled, and it seemed that only a few stars had spread their net of light. But more and more appeared, brightly small yet sharp against the blackness. Then more appeared, and still more, as my eyes adjusted in the darkness, and the trailing clouds of the Milky Way spun webs between star clusters far from this Earth. And as two shooting stars in quick succession blazed their trails in the south-eastern sky, it occurred to me to wonder how the stars might look from the Kingdom? I really should get on with those maps.

NB: The orange flower is crocosmia, my husband has informed me.