Sunday, 18 September 2011

Anatomy of a week. Or: Fail Better

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

This week I have:

Had a cold.

Written 7870 words of book.

Thought thoughts.

Felt happy, sad, enraged, despairing, determined, defiant, panicked, fretful, confused, inspired, manic, weak, galvanised, and focused.

Suffered such mad insomnia that last night I found myself wide awake at five in the morning, mind racing, so that I quite gave up on sleep, went and got my computer, and wrote a thousand words in my bed, whilst the dogs slumbered by my side. Might as well not waste all the wakefulness, I thought, and in the end it was not wasted.

Read and read.

Laughed more than I thought I might, considering everything.

Walked in the air.

Planted plants.

Made soup.

Felt slight shame at my lack of domestic organisation.

Blogged the blog.

Bought two trees.

Ruthlessly avoided all social contact, except for the occasional morning walk with The Brother, and shut off the telephone. (For which I should publicly apologise to the dear Mother and Stepfather, who left fruitless messages.)

Drank too much coffee.

Had almost no idea what was in the news.

And that was about it.

As I sat down to write this, on a silent Sunday afternoon, I had a haunting sense that I had not achieved nearly enough in the last seven days. Because I am up against my deadline, and have set myself a stupidly excessive work schedule, a sense of failure was almost inevitable. But now I have written down what I did, it doesn’t look so bad.

The almost eight thousand words are certainly not timeless epiphanies, which should be carved in stone and set to music. Many of them will end up being cut. Eight thousand in a week is generally much too much. But at least the scratches on the page exist, where before there was only vacancy. They are no longer jostling about in the amorphous spaces of my mind, but sit, real and present, in the vaults of my computer. One day, some of them will be in print.

The battle against perfectionism wages and rages on. The good rational mind says: it’s quite fine to be a flawed human being. It’s quite right and proper to have frailties and failings, because that is what everyone does have. The insistent irrational mind says: pah, such ordinary ambition is for the birds. It says, rigid with impatience: hurl yourself to the mountaintop or die trying.

The rational mind remembers the greatest thing that Samuel Beckett ever said. It is so great and so important to me now that I am going to put it, shamelessly, in capital letters.


And now for your pictures.

Interestingly, as if in tune with the theme of the day, the first photographs I took were rather blurred and out of focus. They are the very emblem of imperfection, so, instead of hiding them away, or sending them to the trash, I am going to show them to you. They are flawed, but I rather love them:

18 Sept 1

18 Sept 1-1

18 Sept 1-2

One of my enduringly beloved views, over my stone wall, across the wild part of the garden, and to the hill beyond. Even on a rainy day, it still holds a majestic beauty:

18 Sept 4

The first berries of autumn, with the raindrops clinging to them:

18 Sept 5

Sedum, just starting to flower. It stays pale green all summer, and then bursts into colour just as the autumn arrives and everything else is thinking of fading:

18 Sept 6

Hydrangea, getting bluer by the day:

18 Sept 8

Ah, ah, the violas:

18 Sept 9

18 Sept 9.ORF


18 Sept 10

18 Sept 13.ORF


18 Sept 11.ORF

Cyclamen, with raindrops:

18 Sept 12.ORF

The signs of the season – fallen pine needles and branches which have come down in the wind:

18 Sept 12

18 Sept 13

The Brother, walking off through the rain in his special hat. As I look at this photograph, I sing in my head: Yes, we’ll walk down the avenue, and we’ll walk down the avenue, oh we’ll walk down the avenue till we’re there:

18 Sept 20.ORF

The dog of the Older Niece and the Man in the Hat, looking reproachful because I am not THROWING THE BALL:

18 Sept 22

And: I know that we must fight perfection with our every last revolutionary breath. I know that it exists only in the realms of Plato. I know that it is not a consummation devoutly to be wished. But, despite all this, there are some things in the world which are as near perfect as dammit, and THIS is one of them, I don’t care what anyone says:

18 Sept 21

18 Sept 23

(Can you tell by now that I really have not had enough sleep?)

And the hill, rather stately on a flat, drear day:

18 Sept 25.ORF

Oh, and since I am talking of this week, which has not been the easiest of my entire wide life, may I just add one more thing that happened?

It is:

The Dear Readers brought me joy.

Yes, you damn well did.


  1. OK, I think you are unnecessarily torturing yourself. You are doing brilliantly. I could not write a book; I have not had an original thought in my life. I did translate 8000 characters though yesterday (working at the weekends is my secret vice; so is skiving off on weekdays), for a client who is trying to take an 'original' approach to language, and am now ready to give up the ghost.

    I think we should both go for a nap.

  2. What Imogene said: yes.

    The photographs are beautiful, as always. YOU ARE NOT THROWING THE BALL made me smile muchly.

    And as a professional organiser, I feel entirely qualified to say that your "lack of domestic organisation" is absolutely UNIMPORTANT up against all the other vital things you are doing. True.

  3. After reading your list of things done, I had to take a break. (I'm exhausted!)

    Re: Saturday's insanity, I'd immediately switch banks (assuming a suitable alternative exists). We did this last year for a small stateside account and the relief is well worth it.

    wv "purli" which, for some reason brings the always beautiful Pigeon to mind...

  4. Well actually the whole tortured angst thing is, I assume, just an average day for your dear readers - you are doing brilliantly - why do you torture yourself so much??
    KBO!! At the end of the day its the only way to go - and you have so many personal gifts - plus the pigeon - plus the hill - plus the family - not to belittle your emotions but that is a whole lot more than many of us have.... Gonna say it again - KBO Tania - you inspire us!

  5. Lovely and wise comments as always. And thank you thank you for them.

  6. Congratulations on the words. For me it sounds an awful lot. Lovely pictures (as usual). The hydrangeas are also in flower at my "up country" home. One is a bright blue and the other is a speckled pink which I have never seen elsewhere!!! I do hope I get a sprig of sedum from somewhere/someone - I wonder does it grow from seeds. It is so gorgeous.


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