I promised myself that I would not allow politics and parliament to dominate another blog. And, this month, I can keep that promise, because the bastards have shut it down!
So, September. Still decent weather to enjoy but our boiler has already, ominously, fired itself up on two occasions. Not to the extent that I could announce that ‘The heating’s on!’ but just enough to remind me that it’s probably not going to get a whole lot warmer any time soon. Still, masn’t gramble, as they say. Still sunny outside and I have washing on the line.
I can’t ignore the fact that I’m no big fan of autumn. All that snuggling up with big jumpers and hot chocolate with a log fire and a weepy film leaves me feeling horrified. Okay, I can cope with the log fire but that’s only because of my background in arson.
That presents a problem: how do I get a positive out of a negative? Well, in a few days I’ll be sunbathing and drinking in Kos. However, that is hardly dealing with an English autumn, that’s simply running away from it.
There has been one positive this week: I went foraging for fungi in our local woods for the first time in as long as I can remember. My eyesight has deteriorated since I tried this before so ‘getting your mushroom eyes in’ was a bit more complicated than it used to be. Although, I found a few examples. Nothing surprising but enough to photograph and post on the Mushroom Spotters UK Facebook page. To be honest, walking through the trees with sunshine dappling through, stretching my legs over rotting logs and pushing my way through overgrown areas of woodland all made me feel more alive than I had in a while and caused me to promise myself to make a return visit in the not too distant future. Come October, there should be some reasonably-sized fruiting bodies to photograph. That’s a little earth ball (Scleroderma citrinum) lying amongst the leaf litter.
And that last but one sentence does make a valid point: autumn is a time of fruiting and therefore colour. It’s not winter, I should remind myself.
There’s plenty of good stuff to look at. It’s the fact that autumn is a marker for winter in the same way that spring is the marker for summer. Autumn is, possibly, more beautiful than spring. I adore the delicate spring flowers and the freshness on the air but it doesn’t have that bold beauty of turning leaves and dramatic skies and deep, red apples. So it’s just a matter of context. I love spring because it is the announcement that my favourite time of the year is upon us and I dislike autumn because it is the announcement that my least favourite time of the year is upon us. I’m wasting a quarter of a year being miserable about something that hasn’t happened yet. It explains a lot. Those grapes are in my garden and the sun has momentarily burst through the rainclouds. I can’t think of many things more cheerful than that.
Another opportunity that autumn offers is that I can finally free myself from that big orange thing in the sky and get some writing done. Procrastination is my first, middle and last name.
When there is writing to be done (always) and the sun is shining, I can be relied upon to declare, ‘But we don’t know when we’ll see it again (probably tomorrow) so best make the most of it.’ And I’ll be out there, shorts on, vest off, head back soaking up ultraviolet radiation as though my life depended on it (which it sort of does). My favourite thing is to lounge about out there and do exactly bog all. It is immensely satisfying but not all that productive. I pretend that I’m thinking around problems within my various narratives but, to be honest, I’m doing nothing of the sort. So, as the days darken (just depressed myself!) I can look forward to extending the word count to something nearer to a respectable rate. I can always light the log burner if need be.
But then, the desire to increase the word count is a problem in itself. I have entire manuscripts that are virtually useless because they are the product of being tough with myself and maintaining a desired number of words each day. That gets the job done but the words have to be ‘good’ words. Sitting back after zoning out and feeling oh so very noble at having just typed four and a half thousand words has very little worth if those words are a pile of pants. And quite often they are. I am guilty of deciding to write an entire chapter for the sake of balance and achievement rather than out of necessity. And that, of course, is a major tool in the art of procrastination. No-one can argue with the fact that the words have to matter. Every single one of them has to matter. Padding has no value, which is why you feel a little bored now. So it’s better to sit in the sun rather than waste time typing nonsense…
The answer, of course, is simply to work hard. It’s true that writing become easier over time and chucking out a half-decent sentence isn’t as difficult after twenty years as it was at the beginning. But it still has to be scrutinised.
It still has to have the shit edited out of it. Edit, edit, edit and then edit again. Preferably until it disappears altogether, as an old script-writing mate of mine insists. If you get rid of all of it then you know for a fact that there are no surplus words. It has a certain logic about it. But it is that ability to produce decent sounding sentences with minimal effort that becomes a writer’s nemesis. You can even fool yourself. Oh, yes, what a beautifully balanced sentence. That sounds like music when spoken aloud and looks so elegant on the page. But, is it necessary? Is it earning its keep or is it just taking up space? Each word has to work as hard as all the others. There’s no room for passengers. If it isn’t carrying a load, then it has to go. But, and it’s a big but, you have to write the damned thing in the first place before you can delete it or send it to that ‘dead baby’ folder on the hard-drive.
The photo is of Stereum hirsutum (probably) – Hairy Curtain Crust Fungus and has no bearing on the ability to edit properly.
So the plan is: print out my progress so far on my favoured project and take it with me on holiday. I can sit and edit and makes notes on where to go next and there is no danger of me getting distracted and opening a new tab and scrolling through Faceache for an hour or two. Paper and pen is probably the only way out of a rut. Old school solutions to even older problems. Of course, I can always ignore the paper and just gaze out to sea with a beer on one side and bread and olives on the other.
See you in October and don’t forget to visit my Website!