Thursday, 7 January 2010

In which my brain hurts

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Here is what I had forgotten about plunging into a book: the brain fever.  For the last few months I have been pitching (Sarah and I had to do several pitches before we hit the exact right one), pursuing an on-spec secret project, writing a few articles, doing the blog.  Although I was working, it felt like a curious fallow period, a little limbo. In the old days, I would finish one book and at once start another, and just hope someone would buy it.  As a result, I have several unloved manuscripts still in my bottom drawer. (Unloved, that is, by everyone except me; at the time of execution, I thought they were works of genius; or, at least, quite good.)  There was never a time when I was not writing. 

Now I have a wonderfully strict agent who disapproves of any word being written unless it has been bought and paid for.  (I have a sneaking suspicion that she does not even quite like me doing this blog, on account of the utter lack of cash payment.)  This is categorically A Good Thing.  I am no longer in my feckless twenties; I can't just run around doing stuff that no one will ever buy.  But it does mean there is this curious stop-start nature to my working life.  Now I am in full Start, and my mind, which was noodling along like an old lady out for a stroll, has to, almost overnight, transform itself into Usain Bolt.  I swear I can actually feel my brain aching

It is not just think think think, all the time, from the moment I wake in the morning to the moment I go to sleep at night.  My friend the Man of Letters and I have a little joke that even when we are in the supermarket we are still working. Doing the washing up: working; walking the dogs: working; lying in the bath: working. (Actually, I get some of my best ideas in the bath, which is an absolute bugger, because it is impossible to write them down because the paper goes soggy.) It's a silly self-referential writer's thing, but it makes us laugh because it has a mark of truth to it.  But the thinking is only half of it.  There is then the trick of getting the thought to run down the arm, through the fingers, and onto the page.  Transcribing what seems like a perfect honed idea from my mind to my typing hands is sometimes almost impossible.  It was all there a moment ago, like a perfect little egg, and I can't damn well get it out.  Someone once said a brilliant thing about this: after page three it is all damage limitation.  What he meant was, and I think it was a he, is that the ideal glittering book exists in your head, and then you start writing it down, and it goes at once from Olympian to second-rate.

But this is not a complaint.  I am back doing the proper work.  There were another thousand words today.  They are not especially glittering words, because today was more sticky and dogged than yesterday, but three thousand words now exist where there were none.  In the little flights of fancy that I occasionally allow myself, I think of that as a kind of miracle.


Picture of the day:

I can't give you another shot of the snow and the dogs, although I would like to state for the record that we now have SEVENTEEN INCHES of accumulation, so today is more mundane.  I need to eat a lot of protein to keep my strength up for all this contemplation I am doing, so I made a heavenly frittata with courgettes and pancetta and spinach, and I must admit I did gaze upon it with delight.

frittata 005

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  1. Hola! A quick idea for writing down bathtime inspiration - how about one of those magnadoodle thingamies, or a slate and chalk? The slate and chalk will actually look cool and kitsch, which is an added bonus!

  2. Retro slate and chalk! You are genius! And I never use exclamation marks.

  3. FYI the daily photo thing was repeated by a great Hun writer, Péter Nádas with a pear tree in his garden that resulted in a fantastic photo exhibit

  4. Frittata looks wonderful!

    Your post reminded me of university studying English Lit in Glasgow when I had moments of genius insight while writing an essay, but could never really convey it in words.

    Writing well is a real gift and you always write so beautifully. I read your blog every day and enjoy your daily pics and images of Scotland.


  5. Marianna - I LOVE Peter Nadas. Just been to look at his wonderful site. How clever of you to know about him.

    Anoymous/Sarah - what an absolutely lovely thing to say. Especially heartening as I am setting off on the long three hundred page trek of a new book. Thank you so much.


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