Trapped Water Holds Ancient Life

I find Mondays like a runt the teat.

The novel I’m writing, it’s picking at me now when once it was swallowing whole. Go fish! Who wants to read about a writer’s private shames and dissatisfactions? Surely readers would much rather hear about what goes on in a suburb after dark when the lights of stark realism are turned low.

I love the Irish writer Anne Enright’s idea of a novel: “A book that shifts between its covers and will not stay easy on the page, a real novel, one that lives, breathes, refuses to die!”

I turn over in bed a lot these days and I am not easy on the pillow. Is what I’m writing good? Will anyone read it on their way to Bridgton, Maine, to live out their last days of summer under the dome of King?

“If the world doesn’t value us, we won’t value the world. We seek solace in books, in solitary and sometimes fantastical thinking.” Howard Jacobson

Sometimes I think this whole Western idea of the individual as the purest form of experience is over-rated. Sure, Thatcher said that society is dead, but now she is, and it’s time to start redefining what we mean by society. I really miss the kind of livid life I grew up with on the streets of Wales, where people gossiped, encountered each other and strangers in a messy, noisy way and nobody seemed to care if you had money or not. I want to bring that back and topple Facebook. What we need is a new Marx and Engels, who instead of going to Manchester during the Industrial Revolution and witnessing first-hand the sad plight of the working class, need to recognize the utterly boring plight of the virtual world that’s making us all so much poorer when it comes to a livid life.

Somebody in the house ate my last Ginger Snap! God, the embarrassments and ignominies you have to suffer as a writer.

I’ve never had what you’d call a relaxed attitude towards life. People I only sort of know suggest I should get out more, mingle, crash a political party or two and get a feel for the new continental divide that is building up like a wall around us all.

Here are a few things that annoy me:

Early risers who hammer.
Conservatives who ride into town, shoot a couple of liberals, and call it a good day’s work.
Tepid tea.
Anglophiles who think because I’m Welsh, I don’t wear Union Jack underwear.
Being no good with plots.
A fly in the vinegar.
Vacationers to Maine who linger too long.
Wet summers.
Tax cuts for the wealthy.
People who grumble but are avatars of wisdom when it comes to TV shows.
The dirt that never comes out.
People who always act as though they are at home in the world.
Revenge that is driven by stupidity.
Any clock.

Since it is a well-known fact that to end on a negative note is almost as bad as admitting you once made love in the rain, I shall end on a surf board, riding positive waves. And some music. “Sleep No More” from the brilliant Sheffield band the Comsat Angels


The Session of Sweet, Silent Thought

The Books section of the Guardian has posted advice from a broad spectrum of writers about 10 Rules for Writing Fiction inspired by Elmore Leonard’s ten commandments. It’s a cool list of writers that includes Jeanette Winterson, Michael Moorcock, Philip Pullman, Sarah Waters, Margaret Atwood, Roddy Doyle, Anne Enright, Geoff Dyer, Will Self, Neil Gaiman, and more.

It’s fascinating what each writer considers important to the writing experience. There’s some gems there as well as duds. The best advice I took away from it would be this holy trinity: Write, edit, and edit some more. The most pointless don’t was this one from Richard Ford: “Don’t have children.” Total crap. That’s like saying don’t have sex unless you mean to have offspring. Actually his rules are the weakest of the bunch. Which leads perfectly into this advice from Moorcock: “Ignore all proferred rules and create your own, suitable for what you want to say.”

And to get semantic, I’m not sure “rules” is the best noun to use. I’d use “advice.” Rules imply an explicit adhering to, and if I come away with anything from these rules, I think it is use at your own discretion.

Here are the 15 I would be able to live and work with, tacked up beside my writing desk along with the most useful advice I’ve come across in a long while: “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

1. Write

2. Love what you do. (Winterson))

4. Trust your creativity. (Winterson)

5. Do it every day. The most important rule of all and, naturally, one I don’t follow. (Dyer)

6. When people tell you something is wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong. (Gaiman)

7. Never take advice from anyone with no investment in the outcome. (David Hare)

8. Write whatever way you like. Fiction is made of words on a page; reality is made of something else. It doesn’t matter how “real” your story is, or how “made up”: what matters is its necessity. (Enright)

9. Write for tomorrow, not today (Motion)

10. Always carry a notebook. The short-term memory only retains information fro three minutes. (Self)

11. Turn up for work. Discipline allows creative freedom. No discipline equals no freedom. (Winterson)

12. Stop reading fiction, it’s all lies anyway, and it doesn’t have anything to tell you that you don’t already know (assuming that is, you’ve read a great deal of fiction in the past). (Self)

13. Have more than one idea on the go at any moment. If it’s a choice between writing a book and doing nothing I will always choose the later. (Dyer)

14. Protect the time and space in which you write. (Zadie Smith)

15. Hold the reader’s attention. (Atwood)