Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Gathering thoughts in the snow

Its been one hell of a time since I last wrote, with a series of disasters and problems that have prevented me from either getting online or getting out of the house.  Being snowed in has been a stressful time (we are on day 5 now), and not being able to use my laptop because of contracting a Trojan has added to the stress.  Last week I thought my brain was going to explode!  I didn't realise how much I was addicted to the internet until I couldn't use it.

Now its all fixed and tomorrow we are hoping the lane will be melted enough for us to escape.

It has been a strange time.  A time, oddly, for reflection, in spite of going out of my mind with stress.  A time for considering what is important, and where I want to go next.  So I am gathering plans for next year, making a strategy, clarifying what is important to me, what nurtures my creativity, and where I want to go with my writing.  One thing I do want to continue with is this blog.  I love it, and I love the feedback I get.  So thank you to everyone who has been so kind about my work.

It is also weird to be commercially paralysed in the run up to Christmas.  Plenty of things just have not got done.  It has made me focus on exactly how out of control this whole present-buying, food-consuming, decoration one-upmanshipping season is.  There came a point when I just thought - sod it.  If it doesn't get done, well, it doesn't get done.  There is not a lot I can do about it, so why get in a state?

What I would really like to do as a result is start a campaign for a Present-free Christmas.  Okay, maybe not for the kids, but for us adults.  I mean, really, do we need it?  Lets give our time to one another instead. Let's be together instead. It would be good for the environment, and good for our wallets as well.  Maybe I'll set up a Facebook page.....

Anyway, Merry Christmas Everyone, where ever you are, and a very happy New Year.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Thoughts on Perfectionism

Definition of Perfectionism - getting a birthday cake right...

At the moment I am wrestling with trying to rewrite my novel, The Seventh.  And I am finding it hard.  I feel like Jacob, wrestling the angel all night.  Neither of us is winning.  We are just grinding one another into the dust.  Part of the problem is my perfectionism, which is magnified to the Nth degree because this is draft number five.  It really has to be right this time....

I was talking with my counsellor, R, about this the other day.  She writes too, so she understands.  She is also fabulously adept at delivering what I might call, quote 'a slap upside the head with the frying pan of enlightenment' unquote*.

She told me a story about a fellow counsellor, who explained to her that though his sessions with some clients were often difficult, painful, maybe even inconclusive, he always felt they were 'perfect'.  He said they were 'perfect' because they were the unique coming together of people, place, time and emotions; that somehow, what happened in them was what the clients needed at that point in their lives.

R posed the potentially radical question as a result:  what if this is perfect?  Whether it is a counselling session or what comes out on the page after an afternoon sweating blood over a scene that just obstinately refuses to work, dammit!, what if it is just perfect?  Perfect for that time, that place, that me that needs to learn what that moment has to teach me?

Of course, it is just ridiculous to apply this to every occasion.  No one can ever claim that the death of a child in a road accident or from cancer is perfect because of what it teaches the parent.  (Anyone who tells you in this situation that it is a learning experience, and  'God only sends us what He knows we can cope with' wants their block knocking off, IMHO.) But what if one were to apply it on a small scale?  What if, just for once, I could look at that page of dross I have just written, and say, 'maybe, just maybe, right here, right now, that is perfect'?

This reminds me of Baty's First Law of Exuberant Imperfection**, which roughly goes that you have to write a whole lot of shit before you get something remotely useful, and counsels the writer against any kind of judgement upon their work.  Chris Baty is talking about first drafts of course, in connection with the incomparable NaNoWriMo (if you don't know what that is, Google it), but as a recipe for getting going, I can't think of a better one.

Pagans have a very good rule too.  They say, do the spell and then act 'as if'.  As if it had worked.  And it will.

What if I acted 'as if' my work was all wonderful?  What if I decided one day that what I wrote was perfect for that day?

Is it at all possible that just doing that may allow me to write something.  Anything.  Instead of being terminally stuck on this dusty roadside, wrestling with the angel of my perfectionism, and never making any progress?

This all sounds far too absurdly simple to be realistic.  The judgemental voices inside my head scream 'what a load o' rubbish!' with great enthusiasm.  But the thing is, I have a fifth draft to write, and this weekend I am embarking on the delight of my annual writers retreat, taken with my pals from our writers group.  Its the perfect opportunity to play the game of let's pretend.  In this case, 'Let's pretend what I am writing this time round is perfect'...

I'll let you know what happens.....

* (I can't remember whether it was Yasmin Galenorn or Dianne Sylvan who wrote this expression, but its so wonderful, and describes Ros's technique perfectly.  I recommend either writer's work to Pagans, particularly Sylvan's book, The Circle Within, which is pretty much the best book on Wiccan Spirituality that I have ever read.)

** Chris Baty, 'No Plot, No Problem, a Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days', Chronicle Books 2004.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Saturday Photoshoot

I tried to persuade her she is beautiful. But she said, 'My teeth are too big.'  And 'My nose is too turned up.'

But the thing is.........she is.

Friday, 4 December 2009

TGIF Again!

My favourite oak tree is hanging on valiantly to her leaves

I can't believe Friday has rolled around again so fast! I had a hundred thoughts about cool things to write here this week, but they never got written down.  Instead, this week's magnum opus has been a letter to the bank - asking why they are charging me (get this) £32 for going over my limit by (even better) 31p!!!! (I know you shouldn't overuse exclamation marks, but I think on this occasion it is justified.) I'm looking forward to hearing their response...(Don't hold your breath, people.)

One thing that did strike me very forcefully this week was a comment by a friend, Carol, who said lovely things about my blog posts and the way I write, but that she couldn't leave a comment because she was too afraid that she couldn't write nicely enough.  Firstly, I want to say, Carol, I am really touched and grateful for your feedback. And you CAN write beautifully, because if you express a feeling, it it is intrinsically beautiful.    And secondly, if you are one of the few bodies who visit this site, please, please leave a comment and let me know you are out there!  It would be nice to know I am not writing into a black hole!

OK, heres this week's TGIF - Trust-Gratitude-Inspiration Friday:

I am trusting that the small stuff will sort itself out... That the money will come somehow; that the clutter will get tidied; that the house will get cleaned; that the to do list will get done; that next weekend, when I get to my writing retreat, I will actually feel prepared; that Christmas and all its attendant travelling and stress will turn out to be magical after all.

I am grateful for the oasis of time I have had this week to recover and be.  Three days of catching my breath and pottering about, resting, making my first batch of mince pies, sitting at my desk, reading, drawing.  I am so grateful that I have had time to do a few pleasurable things for myself.  Its been bliss.

I am inspired by the season.  Yesterday we went up to Bungay, our nearest town, and the Christmas lights had been switched on.  Everything looks so twinkly and cosy.  The Bungay Christmas Street Market is on Sunday, and we are going - can't wait!!

Hope you are feeling TGIF too.