Last Day of Holidays!

SnowCastlesNot that I am ungrateful for the time I get to spend with my children…

But perhaps I simply try to cram too much into the holidays…

Perhaps I overestimate their and my capacity for wonder, social interaction and quality time…

Perhaps I underestimate the amount of time it takes me to write even something as simple as a blog post, a book review or a letter for French administration, let alone a novel. OK, maybe the French letter is marginally more complex than a novel.

Perhaps there are other things weighing my spirit down and it’s really not fair to take it out on them.

Anyway, I’ve tried to pre-empt this by gearing my reading and writing matter this month towards the light, easy and colourful. Among my reads: Cara Black, Sarah Caudwell and Ben Hatch’s hilarious road-trip across France.

AwesomeLegoAnd I try to tell myself that somewhere, somehow, amidst the repeated requests to do homework, to tidy up, to come down for dinner, there might be some golden childhood memories building up…

Everything Has to Be Just So to Write?

There is an article in ‘The New Yorker’ that fills me with guilt: it is an essay by Roxana Robinson, novelist, essayist, short-story writer on how she starts writing first thing in the morning.  She sacrifices conversation with her husband, glancing at the news, a good breakfast and even (horror of horrors!) a decent cup of coffee in her desire to sit down and listen to her deepest thoughts and dreams.

BookshelvesI am full of admiration, but I also have to admit my own experience is so far removed from that, we might as well be living in different galaxies or parallel universes.  Not only do I have a family who conspires to destroy my gossamer of dream-thoughts even if I wake up at 6 in the morning to sneak to the guestroom to get some writing done.  But I am also a bit of an obsessive-compulsive (which means I need to have a clear desk), a coffee snob (which means taking the time to choose the right coffee), a perfectionist (I need to feel I have a clear mind, all the admin paperwork out of the way, my emails checked for any urgent messages) and… OK, I’ll admit it, a procrastinator (so I like to work up to things gradually, which means easing my way in via far too much Twitter or reading blogs or other stories etc. etc.).  It’s a wonder I ever get anything written at all! (But perhaps not so much of a wonder that I have yet to publish a novel).

So this blog post below is perhaps a fairer description of what happens in my house (I was unable to reblog this, so I am cutting and pasting it from the website of Abigail Kloss-Aycardi, which is well worth a visit):

I was listening to a lecture on creativity by John Cleese that is posted on Twitter this morning. I found it very inspiring and I agreed with all of his points.

I felt quite ready to get to writing some poetry….but I ran into some basic problems. This is not a poem, just the conversation I had with myself and the conclusion that I reached.

I can’t write with the door shut,
It’s too hot; I’ll suffocate.
“Then put on some shorts,”
I can’t write in shorts.
I just can’t.

I can’t write on my iPad,
I don’t want to “hunt and peck”.
“So use your laptop,”
It’s too heavy and it gets too hot.
I just can’t.

I can’t write in the bedroom,My husband’s in there.
“So what?”
I don’t write with anyone else in the room.
I just can’t.

“So what do you want?”I want an air conditioner in this room.

I want a thin, light-weight, cool-running laptop

And I want to shut the door.

“So what are you going to do?”

Go make some hummus,

The chick peas are almost ready.

I am sure I could write better in this library...
I am sure I could write better in this library…

Poems That Mean the World to Me

There are two poems that I would keep under my pillow if I were in the habit of doing that.  As it is, I have them pinned to the noticeboard in my study and below are my favourite fragments from them.  They seem to speak my words, my thoughts, my heart (but so much better than I ever could).  The first one I discovered a long time ago, as a teenager; the second one I came across only a few months ago, but it sparked my creative renaissance. The sentiments seem to lie at opposite ends of the spectrum. Yet, we all have contradictions within ourselves, don’t we?

You said: ‘I’ll go to another country, go to another shore,

find another city better than this one’.

[…]

You won’t find a new country, won’t find another shore.

This city will always pursue you.

You’ll walk the same streets, grow old

int he same neighbourhoods, turn grey in these same houses.

You’ll always end up in this city.  Don’t hope for things elsewhere:

there’s no ship for you, there’s no road.

Now that you’ve wasted your life here, in this small corner,

you’ve destroyed it everywhere in the world.

(C.P. Cavafy)

When they say Don’t I know you?
say no.

When they invite you to the party
remember what parties are like
before answering.
If they say we should get together.
say why?

It’s not that you don’t love them any more.
You’re trying to remember something
too important to forget.
Trees. The monastery bell at twilight.
Tell them you have a new project.
It will never be finished.

Walk around feeling like a leaf.
Know you could tumble any second.
Then decide what to do with your time.

(Naomi Shihab Nye)