How to get dressed (and be novel)

There are at least 200 ways to dress a novel. I’m quite sure the one I’m currently writing already exists as a fully-formed, gorgeous thing glittering in the ether – yet not glittering, more shimmering, catching the light as it moves, that’s all – and my writing of it is one of many ever-changing, fallible potential attempts to grasp some grounding down of it. It’s a hot air balloon whipping around in the wind, deafening me with its mechanisms and about to leap away at any moment, but utterly mesmerising and I want to jump fully in and sail away with it, even risking a shudderous drop down into the canopy of a hardwood tree, if it comes to that. It is already a thing quite happily, thanks very much (my novel would say, if Platonic Forms could speak). As a papery manifestation it might not exist yet, but the novel in the purest sense is already exactly its own self, complete and self-satisfied (though I like to believe it needs me) and my bringing it down to earth through fingertips and the sensations (being drip-fed its relative epiphanies – but who is the character thinking of and what is the sound of their voice? But what exactly is at stake for the protagonist and what exactly do they fear?) is only the experience of leaning closer and closer in.

Percolation. The shimmering thing, which I picture hovering playfully about the air above me, now free of its weighty balloon paraphernalia but magic and light as air itself, glowing, sometimes close by, perhaps in a field I’m walking through, other times more majestically, a cosmically colourful thing in a dark universal, star-lit sky, allows itself to be revealed by a heady mix of me concentrating very hard on it and forgetting about it completely. Continue reading

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Ways to write a world

I wrote a whole world, once. Then I wrote another. Then another.

What is there to do with these worlds, afterwards? They sort of linger, lolling about in your head.

It’s a funny thing to finish a world; it’s a sudden decision to stop; simply to stop putting down the lifeline of its words or thought pattern. You walk along and hear a character’s voice, remarking on something which has amused him; speaking words which he is certain, by the way, is the kind of thing he’d say; he’s become quite witty – quite worldly, even stuck in that fertile ring of performance you formed with your sentences, that belt you put around him, that supposed perimeter defining him, a sort of spritz put about the sense of him. Continue reading

On showering; or how I hold the world together

Climbing the grand steps of self-labelling, there are many levels to nudge oneself through (one is both a person leading the horse on a piece of rope, and the horse being urged to proceed through each narrow gate) before one can truly feel comfortable calling oneself ‘a writer’. There is the ‘I’m not really a writer unless I have published my fourth novel and won another prize‘ brigade, and on the other side of the scale there is the horse-before-cart, self-actualising, The Secret-loving, manifestation-willing, glory-expecting camp of those who enthusiastically consider ‘being a writer’ merely to mean ‘sometimes I think about stuff and definitely will write some of it down one day; it’s gonna be good.’ Somewhere in between, there is this trusty landmark: you can’t call yourself any kind of writer until at least one person has asked you where you get your ideas from.

When some people shower in the morning, I imagine they think about the way the water feels, how they need to replace the shampoo soon, or what they’ll have for breakfast. On one level, I’m doing all this too (luxuriating in bergamot and orange homemade body scrubs, etc.; though I definitely have already had breakfast; I wake up starving each morning and have to eat immediately) but on another level, while the water runs over my body, I’m merrily and involuntarily living several other lives in my head like an absolute weirdo. Continue reading