Tuesday, 11 November 2008

A Week at Anam Cara

Off for a whole week, to my writers retreat in Ireland. Flying to Cork, then driving due west for a few hours, but I will stop just before I tip into the Atlantic at Coulagh Bay.

I figured it would be A Good Thing to set out my objectives for this next week. Although I always have plenty I could get on with, it is easy to sit and play, and lose focus.

I am very tired, the writer part of me is very stressed. I think the last few months has taken its toll in one way or another. So I need some good nights sleep, the TLC that Sue is so good at providing, and the company of other writers.

I think it is probably silly to set out a list of objectives that are rigid and prescriptive. I think I need to feel my way, and hope to rejoin some sense of pleasure in writing the ‘novel’, instead of this laughing demon on my shoulder who screeches ‘you mustn’t write this, waste of time, it will get bad reviews..’ each time I open one of the files.

In the spirit of being open about my own demons on this blog - it would be so so easy not to go on with this. At times, that feels the best thing to do. But I know that is also an attack of the uber-sentinels. With 70,000 words already scattered all over the ether and secondary hard drives, that would be a real shame. And as my son wisely said, it would be too easy for me to blame the shock of the MPhil disaster for ditching it.


NOVEL: I will revisit the ‘story’ based on Jude Thaddeus and John. There is a third central character in this one who has been niggling at me. He needs to come out completely, and a new character needs to replace him, and I think (hope!) the whole will take on another dimension.

That means unpicking a story that is currently 8,500 words ish. And re-embroidering the patches. But until I do that, I have been unable to write the ending. I KNOW the ending. It’s just the players felt wrong and I didn’t know why. I now think I do.

I have an idea for the eighth story. Or the backstory within. That backstory will get written this week.

I also have a snippet of Welsh superstition to do with the mines, found thanks to the Net, in a newspaper account of a mining tragedy in south Wales that happened over 100 years ago. It is tiny, slight, but I believe tiny weightless things take on a vast significance on occasion. I will play with the image, see what happens.

(Delighted to read this on Fictionbitch this morning… it gave my little finding and my need to incorporate it centrally in the book some validity. I almost felt a twinge of excitement.

Adam Thirlwel in The Guardian

“…there could be a way of describing reality which was both true to the seriousness of the world and yet also true to its absolute flippancy, because even the most passionate of experiences, especially the most passionate, were weightless….” )

That quote has become precious, in all of ten minutes. He seems to be saying exactly what I am thinking as I write this novel.

Poetry: I also want to share some poetry with Sue Guiney, one of the writers who will be at Anam Cara for the next few days. This time last year, I wrote my first poem in forty years, inspired by listening to her and to another poet, John D Smith. My poem was ghastly, but a year later, I am glad I didn’t throw in the towel.

I am working on a series of poems inspired by a recent visit to Sachsenhausen concentration comp, near Berlin. I hope to at least start another one. I am amazed how slow poetry is, sometimes.

Far too much time spent hunched over a screen.
I will get out and walk each day, get some air into my lungs.

READING: I am taking some books. I won’t list them here, in case I get sidetracked by the endless shelves of books over there.


Julia Bohanna said...

I hope that the voices berating each time you write die soon, Vanessa. A horrible death perhaps, stabbed with your success. I'm angry that those voices were allowed to 'tutor' you at all.

Enjoy oxygen and reverie, that gentle lap of dreams.

Tania Hershman said...

Excellent idea, V, to jot down some "non-prescriptive", gentle goals. One week in to my retreat and I am realising that that would have been wise. Have a wonderful time!

lifemodel said...

I have to say that although I don't envy you for any of your (richly deserved) successes - I do envy you the time and money to go off on writing retreats.
I WILL be in a position to do that, some time soon. I WILL, I WILL!

Sarah Hilary said...

Have a wonderful refreshing time, Vanessa. xx