Welcome to my adventures and experiments in creativity. Where writing is like running: sometimes I know where I'm going, and sometimes I see where the mood takes me.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Review Of The Week

Or: Yet More Existential Quandaries To Ponder

First things first: anyone expecting a traditional ‘look back at the news’ style review, full of incisive opinion and witty comment, has come to the wrong place. If you are any sort of a regular reader of this blog (and I know that’s not many of you), incisive opinion and witty comment is the last thing you should expect anyway. Maybe one day…(!). Being serious momentarily, it goes without saying that the continuing events in Japan – a country for which I have a significant soft spot – are terrible to behold, and my heart genuinely goes out to the people there. But that is not the purpose of this post.

This week has been a tiring week. Actually, scratch that – it has been a tired week. Nothing out of the ordinary has occurred, but the effects of six weeks of this blog’s existence (is that all it’s been…?) seem finally to have caught up with me. Upon bringing ‘The Repository Of Fruitless Work 2’ into the digital world, I never believed the inspiration or motivation would be so forthcoming; and yet, 44 days later, this is the 40th  post. Nearly a post a day. That is insane! Since when did I have so much to say?

(The question of ‘what’ and ‘how good is anything’ I have said can be addressed another time. What do you mean you’d like to know when?)

The desire to post frequently – and the mental machinations of enjoying doing so at the same time as trying not to let it become a ‘I MUST POST EVERY DAY!’ challenge – has had an interesting impact on the way I use my time. Already in 2011, even before choosing to embark on TROFW2, I had elected to record the books I read as part of a seemingly superficial ‘Decade of Reading’ exercise (blogged about here, and referred to again here; the latter is especially relevant).

The unintended consequence of that alone was feeling the need to read as much as humanly possible in order to either (a) justify starting the exercise in the first place, or (b) look really good and very literate by devouring books at a rate of knots. (At this stage, doing it ‘because I like books’ is simply a given). For the first eight or nine weeks, therefore, the reading list documented at least one book a week – no mean feat with several 500-page Lee Child novels and a hefty Stephen King work involved.

Combined with trying to find time to write blog posts (mainly during evenings after work where I wasn’t seeing my better half or, indeed, pretty much anyone or anything other than a computer screen), my routine has been stretched to the limit. Despite still getting up at 5.45am every day, many many nights have seen bedtime pushed out to 11.30pm, midnight, or – occasionally, when a book has been really engrossing – even later. And then there’s been the matter of finding time to do some exercise as well…

Somehow, for four or five weeks, this routine seemed perpetuating. Since last weekend, however, my body has firmly rejected further attempts to sustain it. The writing has survived – just – though the quality control monitor has perhaps fogged over a little. On the other hand, the reading has suffered badly. Nick Hornby’s The Complete Polysyllabic Spree was started on Monday evening but not looked at again until Friday.

Friday was the oasis of the week – an engagement in the morning, but then a day of relaxing at a friend’s house ploughing through the pages that had gone untouched for the previous three days. It felt good, but it is impractical to expect a day like that every week. Hell, once a month is good fortune!

The Hornby book includes short extracts of a few of the books he reviews, and one particular line from one particular extract caught my eye (albeit slightly shorn of context, as its principle subject matter is how to become a ‘civilised person’. If, however, you want to argue the two contexts are actually quite similar, that is fine by me).

From a letter, then, written by Anton Chekov:

“What you must do is work unceasingly, day and night, read constantly, study, exercise willpower … Every hour is precious …”

Attempting to balance ‘quality’ reading and writing is an eternal dilemma. Any advice ever written for aspiring writers mentions the need to read, both for inspiration and education. This is fine for someone like Stephen King, whose daily quota of written words is finished before lunchtime, but for the rest of us trying to do a day job and run a house (and that’s just me – there are people with far more demanding situations), simply reading or producing something is an achievement in itself. How do we then achieve anything ‘significant’ or ‘substantial’ with the work we do produce? How do we translate that to ‘getting noticed’, or even simply engaging with people who may want to read it but don’t know it yet?

Some bigger writing projects – those requiring a little time and thought, but which may ultimately result in nothing of great significance – can’t get a look in at present. Part of me fears that devoting too much time to them will see the inspiration for regular blogging suffer, and at a time when I am shamelessly using Twitter to try and accrue a small-but-dedicated band of regular readers, that sounds like a price not worth paying.

This essay (I can’t think of a better description for it) has also been inspired by another blog I’ve been reading called ‘The Clear-Minded Creative’. Milo, the author, has proved to be a friendly and approachable guy, which has resulted in some interesting and considered responses to questions I’ve put to him. He recently wrote on the subject of finding time for everything …

… something he would probably have less of a problem with if it weren’t for the likes of me writing long e-mails and comments to him! The matter of identifying ‘a way forward’ and focussing on something is an interesting one. Suffice to say there are a few ideas floating around my head, but finding the time to investigate and act upon them is going to prove difficult. Maybe I shouldn’t run before I can walk. Equally, however, my previously published articles (all two of them!) make me wonder what the ultimate purpose of ‘The Repository 2’ is. Does it need one? Do I need to be writing more stuff that I want to try and get published?

Perhaps that is something to deal with another time. When I have the time…

1 comment:

  1. Hi Paul, interesting post - I think you are similar to me in that you are putting a certain amount of pressure on yourself to get stuff done but it's not necessarily sustainable, which means you end up rather frustrated by your own inability to fit everything in, which is exactly how I feel.

    What we need to remember though is that it is us who are putting this pressure on ourselves so we can just as easily decide not to!

    I think what Michael Nobbs writes about 'sustainable creativity' is very valuable from this point of view - we want to build some kind of routine which we can stick to long-term, and therefore not disappoint ourselves or others who expect to see output from us.

    Thanks for the mention by the way - one of the things I enjoy most about blogging is meeting new people and getting a chance to chat to them so I wouldn't want that to be one of the things I cut out of my routine!