Thursday, 23 June 2011

Write-a-Thon Days #3 & #4

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Day #3 Progress: 1,071
Day #4 Progress: 1,059
Objective: +3,386/+30,000

One thing is enough to chide me into never missing a blog date again. Namely, so much has changed in terms of experience, emotion and perception in the past forty-eight that I find myself recollecting yesterday morning in tranquillity, rather than jotting it down raw and visceral from the depth of my productive experience. Take this double-bill post as you may; I will not suffer it to happen again.

The feeling I am struggling to re-capture, not because it is something I would wish to ever relive – though I will – but because it marked a turning point later turned upon its own head, is the following: why bother? Let it suffice that I was directed, through this worldwide net of things wondrous and strange, to something so horrific as actually made me despair for the human race. With a sudden shock, I felt alienated and alone, a voice eager for communication shouting for attention amongst the deaf. Then just as suddenly, the depressing epiphany performed a U-turn. I think it was the infant innocence that did it.

In the gloom, from the other side of a cafĂ© which wasn’t in Liverpool in my day, a baby caught sight of the fire upon my head, and giggled. I giggled back. And just like that, my newfound misanthropy left through the door whence it came. I remembered that while there is a fundamental darkness to people, there is also an almost unlimited potential for light. That while we are capable of terrible, terrifying things we are also beings of beauty. That it is against that darkness and towards that light that I write.

So continue writing I did – extreme sports style. Undeterred by the cluttered despondence of a Midlands train at rush hour, I perched my laptop precariously atop one knee amongst a sea of bags, and typed in the last 200 words necessary to break even. Only one eyelid open and barely at that, tottering in my arrangement and quite possibly making a fool of myself, I kept the promise made to my work… the most sacred kind of vow there is, as a story for another time will tell you I have learnt the hard way.

Today was rather magnificent. My writing schedule had to be shifted forward to allow for my academic life to get a word in edgewise, yet if anything the challenge of juggling the two existences set my synapses well aflame! While I warmed up, perfectly poised between coffee shops 1 and 2, I had a rather lovely encounter with a Moleskine-toting colleague, with whom I enjoyed a good-natured rant about double living, and having to fend off accusations of writing as a hobby. There was something immensely grounding, comforting even about matter-of-factly agreeing over something which, while completely obvious to me, I more often than not find myself justifying.

It dawned on me that one of the very, very few things I miss about the dreaded capital is the fact that for the first and only time in my life, I had not just a few friends who were writers, but a whole community of writers as friends. Though I didn’t spend nearly as much time with them as I should in hindsight have done, I treasured the chance to talk craft with people whose imagination I respect.

On that note, watch this space for 1) possible news I won’t jinx, but which if true might furnish me with a collection of locals to chat shop with and 2) details relative to the imminent publication of the King’s College London Creative Writing Society 2009 / 2010 collaborative novel Fostering Guilt, to which I have contributed the chapter ‘Smoking Laurels’ – a foray into the traditional ghost story genre which once again flagged up why at heart, irrespective of current project, I am a horror writer.

Getting off the tangent and back on the marathon track, I had the kind of writing day whereby characters shove you off your chair and fashion themselves. It got to the point of fist being slammed into palm, marking victoriously the glorious moment of the penny dropping. Two people I’ve been writing about for years and was convinced I knew inside out really surprised me, one by proving a lot stronger than I’d given him credit for and the other by revealing a vulnerability I would never have thought would suit him.

A third rounded the awed displacement by adding a further layer to his motivations, making him possibly the trickiest character I’ve ever had the pleasure of chronicle. As I was explaining yesterday to a new friend down the post-theatre pub, he’s not the villain you love to hate; if you hate him at all, it means I’ve not done my job properly. Everyone is in the right, I hear Friedrich Hebbel chant in my head. In a good story, everyone is in the right. The other thing ringing at the back of my consciousness is Frank Turner’s England Keep My Bones album, which undeniably echoes in my recent writings – indulge your soundtrack I say, for chances are that when it tunes you into a particular track, line, word, the universe knows what it’s doing.

Add to that metaphysical faff the concrete wisdom of a teacher who just this morning mentioned the importance of toggling with prioritisation in the service of the grander narrative of my research, thus unknowingly green-lighting an afternoon of information remixing, paragraph jigs, sentiment shifts, and inconsistency loss. Which just goes onto prove that as I always say to anyone who will listen, writing is writing is writing, and what makes sense for academia is likely to make a certain degree of common sense for fiction … and vice versa.

On one last fuzzy note before I recharge my batteries for tomorrow’s 1K: at the intersection of a dependable brew, staff who are actually interested in my artistic journey and an atmosphere to speak of, I at last have found a coffee shop to call home.


  1. Some much drama in only a few days! I do hope it has provided you with enough inspiration.
    And the coffee shop...the one from Monday or something new?

  2. Oh worry not my dear, IRL drama inevitably transfigures itself into perfect fiction fodder!

    As for the coffee shop, there's this place in Stratford that's actually run by an Italian who knows my 'usual' and forgets to kick me out so I may write like a crazy person... got told today I'm in the family. See for all the ugly stereotypes, this is the kind of thing I truly miss my country for, and here I have a slice on my doorstep!

    The minute they acquire WI-FI, I'm pitching a tent!

  3. There is almost nothing as good for my writing as a decent coffee shop. I've not found my perfect London one yet, but I've been known to curl up in Nero by Borough Market and the Nottinghill gate branch. Keep writing! xxx