Saturday, 31 August 2013

On Writing Not Twerking

For those readers who regularly follow my blog you will know I post weekly. Mostly on a Monday, sometimes a Tuesday but somehow that has slipped back to Saturday. Soz peeps.

Part of me starts to ache if I haven’t posted on time. I’m a lycra clad power walker with a perm hanging out for an endorphin fix. 

So why the hold up? 

Thing is, I’ve been writing some very emotionally draining stuff over the last ten days; a short story involving teenage boys, a party and a car accident and a non-fiction piece about the accidental death of a family member. 

I started to wonder how on earth crime writers do it? Get down to the nitty gritty of death and destruction without becoming drowned in despair? 

Because my fictional characters were like a gaggle of newborn babes. Triplet cling-ons. I had no peace. They invaded my space by day. Then they insisted on sharing the bed, waking me in the night demanding to be fed and coddled. Re-write-dreaming is not relaxing.

Then I moved on to the TRUE story. Digging up an old grief-bone buried for safe keeping. Reliving it all again and some more. Exhausting though it was, I also felt honoured to have given my brother my time. But I started to worry about more than narrative arc. I worried whether his story should actually be shared.

The next day this quote by Neil Gaiman popped up on my newsfeed:

“Be proud of your mistakes. Well, proud may not be exactly the right word, but respect them, treasure them, be kind to them. And, more than that, and more important than that, make them. Make mistakes. Make great mistakes, make wonderful mistakes, make glorious mistakes. Better to make a hundred mistakes than stare at a blank piece of paper too scared to do anything wrong.”

Timely encouragement, not that my story was a mistake, it was more of a risk. I spoke to family members and pushed on. Sent it off and finally got a good night’s sleep.

Then I tried to blog. Everything I started to write felt as flat and lifeless a French crepe on the streets of Paris without Nutella. If my words don’t bounce back at me full of joie de vivre I send them to the naughty chair toute-de-suite. 

I couldn’t even think of a tantalizing recipe to tickle your taste buds. And I didn’t think the faint hearted would want to hear about my cure for an egg bound hen.

I had mentor, Steve B sitting on my shoulder, ‘never write, I can’t think what to write about?’ Arggh. 

The days ticked by…

I obviously needed fresh air. The great Central Otago countryside. Clouds were threatening from the west and a cold front, with snow to 300 metres, was marching in from the south. However the sun was out, so I saddled my trusty horse, Star and headed down to the river. 

After a couple of steep descents I rode along an ancient bullock trail, where if I do a bit of omming and imagine myself in a scratchy woollen riding habit, riding side saddle, I can be a pioneering Scottish lassy heading to town for a sack of flour. Given that I spent the first twenty minutes trying to stop Star from taking off one handed, while gassing to my girlfriend about her love life, I couldn’t switch off and get into character.

I rode on past old gold mining tailings, down the twisty track to the wooden bridge with one plank missing under the spindly oaks. Instead of negotiating the muddy bank and creek bed I swung around, still determined to let Star’s easy rhythm and the solitude excise me from my mental baggage. My thoughts a spaghetti junction of the disturbing kind.

Did I need something really Zen? A good session in a floatation tank for example?

Coming out of the river flat woods, I brushed past a tree, on closer inspection I spied the delicate silvery buds of pussy willow. Halting, I plucked as many stems as I could, with Star jig-jigging and stuffed them into my saddle bag. 

How cool is spring I thought? Reemerging from winter hibernation; no care whether the world is watching. No care what the world thinks. Lookout. Coming, ready or not. 

When I got back it was spitting. I quickly sponged down, curry combed, towel dried and covered Star; lathered from our 2 hour galloping giddy up. 

I was starving. Mmmm, I’ll have last night’s perfectly balanced miso/udon/seaweed/baby kale/leftover roast chicken soup. I was one of Pavlov’s dogs. My saliva welled and almost dripped from my mouth.

Then as I was getting my warmed broth from the above head height microwave kazam:

I had to settle for the dregs in the fridge: mainly noodles no meat. 

I ate in front of my blank computer screen, feeling the temperature drop. Soon the chill rain started. I ran out and double rugged my gallant steed and gave him more hay. 

I returned soaked to the skin. I showered and made a cup of peppermint tea. Then I gave in to the best brain fueling, writer-on-the-verge antidote I know.

I read a book.

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