Rabbit? Or Pooh?

Alan Alexander Milne was a very wise man. I’ll go further; he was a Very Wise Man indeed. You might choose to agree, or not, but I stand by my assessment. Having recently had the pleasure of rereading both Winnie The Pooh and The House At Pooh Corner with my daughter, it ocurred to me to wonder whether – in terms of writing, or I suppose, in the run of things generally – I am more of a Rabbit, or a Pooh. I know  – despite my unwelcome perennial capacity for depression – that I am NOT an Eeyore. Pooh is a placid, calm sort; he waits for things – especially hums and singy-ness, and ideas – to come to him. Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t – you never can tell – and he is happily humble in what he is pleased to call his lack of brain. Rabbit on the other hand is very captainish; he likes to be organised – or rather, he likes to organise other people – and never waits for anything if he can go and fetch it. He has brain, but he doesn’t really understand things, or not in the way that Pooh does. Truthfully, I am inclined towards a state of being Pooh, although I know that being a bit more like Rabbit would be beneficial in terms of actually getting things done. But then other people who are terribly Rabbit-ish tend to drive me up the wall – there is a vast amount of control freakery in people who always want to organise other people just so that they (Rabbit) can feel important. That is not who I am.

Still, in my own meandering dilettantish way, I have at least learned not to be a hostage to my muse; there’s always to something to write, or to write about, even if it isn’t what I might have originally planned, or thought it would be. And thankfully that bastard Writer’s Block hasn’t muscled its way through my brain to sit at the front, flick popcorn at my inner cinema screen and make loud and unhelpful remarks. (Although my Inner Editor has just drawn in a sharp breath at the previous sentence and is now sucking its teeth.) Paul Simon summed it up so perfectly: ‘You want to be a writer? Don’t know how, or when? Find a quiet place, use a humble pen.’ (From the album You’re The One… I think the track was called Hurricane Eye.)

Today is one of those days where I’d really like to not have to DO anything, but instead be in London wandering around the museums, waiting to be ambushed by new insights, new ideas, and learn random new things that I never thought I might need to know.

On second thoughts, perhaps I’m Owl, instead…


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.)

Beginnings and Endings

Things have been a little slow here lately, largely owing to the ongoing battle with my own head. A combination of stress and poor sleep has culminated in a rather ugly migraine, which is still doing its best to linger. I am winning however, and damn me if I don’t prevail!

Before my head started doing its best to beat me up, I managed to finish my little unexpected foray into the genre of Horror. It still needs a proper title, and a major editorial overhaul at a later stage, but it was jolly good fun to write. I’ve shown it to a couple of people – and even though horror isn’t their thing, either – they loved it. This one might have legs…

I will be reworking the story that is currently on its 8th life, as soon as the new printer cartridge arrives. This one needs editing on the page in order to be effectively rewritten. And of course, the play-list will need reviving too; I’ll be listening to a lot of Muse, later this week; I need to, to get the right feeling for the Main Character. She’s a whole year old, born of listening to Muse after seeing The Watchmen at the cinema, last February. And recently I changed her name, just a little. The prospect of revisiting her, and her first story, makes me rather happy.

What else? I finally finished reading The Pregnant Widow. I have to say that I quite liked it. Bits of it – chunks of it – I found quite puerile. But then to take the meaning literally, perhaps that is Amis’ intent? Of course, I have not the experience of having been a confused young man trying to get laid – and more – during the sexual revolution; given that this is sold as an autobiographical novel, then I pity the poor sod. I seriously doubt that to have been his intent however. And the rest of it? Once into the swing of it, I rather enjoyed the reading of it. Interesting, thought provoking, even at times, arresting. I can’t say that I’m inclined to rush out and read his back-list though; too many books, too little time! So what will it be next? China Miéville’s The City and The City? Or Marina Lewycka’s We Are All Made of Glue? Or perhaps a change of pace, another foray into historical biography? Decisions…

Another thing which makes me inordinately happy is that the apple tree is about to firework into blossom – gloriously heady scented white blossom, and then the aquilegias will be out, and the wisteria will acquire fatly swelling buds, and then it all rushes together, this lovely season we call Spring.