Saturday, January 08, 2011

The Paradox of the Writer

The painter at least has his studio; and on occasion models to paint, and there is a physical product, there at the end, that he can do something with. The musician is one of a group or even if a solo artist, might have a manager, an engineer, an occasional collaborator. Besides, their audience will be right in front of them, or, at worst, ignoring them from the bar. The actor lives for the stage, but, because actors are what they are, will always be hanging around with other actors one way or another.

The paradox of the writer is that he or she is only deserved of that epithet when out of view. Writing takes place alone, and, in an era of electronic communication, offline - which might be the quietest place in the world, these days. So, I've spent this week trying to use my time as a writer should. I've not actually written anything of course, that would be expecting too much. But I've gone back and forth over a story I wrote in a flurry of activity one evening in Ghent in December. Excited at knocking off a whole story in a quiet hotel-bound evening I'd forgot that there are no shortcuts: the quickly written story takes forever to revise, the deep thinking happening after the first draft, not, as is usually my case, before.

I've done other things this week - including some music, which, being the kind of person I am, is also a solitary task for me, but at least there's a "something" at the end of it. I've also picked over a few poems, though poetry is something I can do whilst doing other things, in transit. It's just that poems are unmanageable. I can't make them appear; nor make them good. Its with relief that I've been able to spend half a day arranging my reading with JT Welsch on 19th January at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation.

I've also been reading, but not quite as much as I thought I had. I've read two short novels, and bits of literary biography; a few poems. I even watched a film, the good, but generic "The Hurt Locker". Time is running out. The day job resumes on Monday, with all the mental static that comes with it. Before I know it it will be spring, another season gone. The paradox of being a writer is that you only feel you are a writer when you are at your least visible. I could sit in a local cafe drinking coffee and typing on my laptop, but the battery's got about two hours in it, which is hardly enough to write a shopping list never mind get back into a novel. The hard work happens here, at this desk, in splendid isolation. And, sad to say, when I'm writing this blog, or twittering or on Facebook, or commenting on Elizabeth Baines' debate about creative writing or reading George Szirtes musings on "subject" in poetry I sure aint writing.

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