Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Something brewing

Goodwick / Fishguard Harbour
A few years ago I attended a course tutored by the poet David Constantine. Describing the way he writes, he said his poems emerged in short episodes - what he called 'periods of ability.' He had perhaps two or three of these creative phases each year.

I work in a similar way. 

 And a sure sign that ideas are coming to a head is when I start making lists, finishing half-read books, eliminating all the little tasks that might distract me. Jane knows the symptoms; she describes it as 'having my job head on.'

I used to think this was something I did out of diligence, but more recently I've realised it's integral to the way I create. For all the while I'm tidying and sorting the physical stuff, I'm doing something similar in my subconscious - clearing a space and positioning my thoughts within it.

This is not a space to think up ideas; those will have been forming for months, sometimes years. The painter Terry Frost said that some of his paintings took twenty-five years from the time of 'seeing' to making an image. I can relate to that. Perhaps this metaphorical space I've been talking about is my way of shortening the process - helping me take what I've 'noticed' and bring it into being more quickly.

The odd thing is that until I start I have no idea what form my writing will take. I begin, at a conscious level at least, with no more than a vague notion. And yet as the work emerges I have a sense that I knew it was going to be like that all along. None of this troubles me; my only problem is choosing the right time to start. Often that seems to emerge as well.

Earlier this week I noticed Google had launched a version of its Chrome browser for the Apple Mac. I immediately downloaded the file and transferred my settings - and as I did so I was washed over by a feeling of, aghhh, that's better. The reason? Chrome reduces all the buttons and toolbars to the minimum, giving you space to see and do. It is lightning fast too.

Then yesterday I sorted my diary, blocking out whole swathes with the instruction 'no appointments - keep free'. Homelife got a similar treatment over the New Year - I've already decided what I'm focusing on for the next few months.

It's no coincidence that after I'd downloaded Chrome I removed the feed-reader and other gadgets from my home page. Then I rattled off some emails, sorted out the bank account, and began clearing the drawers of my desk...

I'm about to start writing more seriously. You'll see and hear less of me for a while. In return, I'll post some of what I produce on the blog. My starting point is 'starlings'—that's all I know for now.  It's all in my head - I just need the space to get it down.


  1. Having just finished my first novel I'm very aware that it lived with me a long time before I began typing... and even now it's "finished" it's still with me; the rewrites, the tweaks. Creative works have a long, long period of nurturing. Ideas seem to have a long gestation period inside my house before I even dare let them out into the outside world just a little bit.

  2. I go through the exact same process!! I've got a lot of work to do over the next couple of months so I cleared out all the stuff in my bookmarks, cleared e-mails, sorted through stuff in the house and now I am ready to tackle the work and, because I've done the clearning, when I have the weeks break between this lot of work finishing and the next lot starting I can dedicate my time to painting :-)

    Good luck with the writing and I'm really looking forward to reading it

    C x

  3. Good luck with the writing... maybe it's something to do with that blue moon at New Year, but so many people are bursting with creative ideas at present, more so than they would normally have at the beginning of a fresh new year. I am also getting back into writing.... I was published regularly in the late nineties and early 2000s, non-fiction. Then I gave that up to concentrate on fiction, completed my novel, had several short stories published, won competitions and so on, and now am back to the researching and writing features for county mags and so on, plus with a regular spot in my village mag too.
    So good luck to you, and all who are embarking on this exciting journey of writing seriously, either for the first time, or revisiting.

  4. Good luck with the writing and I hope you are still posting when you can as I enjoy reading your blog. Wishign you all the best with both the writing and being published.

    Kate xx

  5. I am excited for you, and looking forward to reading your excerpts. Please don't abandon your blog completely: it is always something I enjoy reading, and feel is a worthy use of my time.

    Thank you! And good luck!

  6. Once the bank account is balanced you are home free. It is like a weight of one's mind, I find. I'm really looking forward to seeing the future work.

    I got 70% for my second TMA but I honestly think the story I wrote was quite a good one. The tutor said my Point Of View wasn't as clear as it should have been. (to be honest I am finding a lot of the techniques espoused in this course to be a bit pretentious)

  7. or maybe it's just sour grapes (and yes, eventually I will leave a comment that doesn't have a typo)

  8. Procrastination is all part of the forming process! I can tell when something is brewing because my 'work station' is tidy, my nails are cut and I can see the kitchen worktop.

  9. Good luck with the writing. It seems quite a few people are getting creative this year. I look forward to seeing the results :)

  10. Good luck Mark! Look forward to reading a few tasters. Know exactly where you are coming from. My study is a horror show at the moment. Can't think straight. Have abandoned it in favour of N's anally clear desk with accompanying view - but I have to scarper whenever he comes home, showing no traces of my inhabitance!!

    I started writing a book last year. Was meant to be doing at least 2 hours every morning before getting sucked into the domestic mire. Lasted about 3 days!! Still, the resolution is still there. It WILL happen. One fine day.

  11. I am looking forward to the results of your inspiration.
    I know when I´ve got a bout coming on as I clear out all the rotten house jobs I haven´t wanted to know about for months in case they come back to haunt me.

  12. How is it going Mark? I'll be interested to see the results.

    I've been told that the writer has to start writing what comes into his/her head every morning. This gets the writer into the habit of writing and what is in the subsconcious comes out.

    It's all in Julia Cameron's "The artist's way".

  13. Good for you! Looking forward for your write ups. Good luck!