Friday, May 25, 2012

A Miscellany

The blog-life balance has been wildly to the latter; which is good - of course - but time for reflection has been a little limited. I might go for a few vignettes rather than something more substantive.


NaPoWriMo was probably a bad idea as having written a poem a day, until the last few days when I ran out of steam, I've not been able to think poetry or read poetry since. The work itself lies forlorn and lonely in my notebook mainly. I need to structure my poetic thoughts as I'm reading in a couple of weeks in St. Ann's Square for the Manchester  Book Market and I need a "new set." The book market will have a wide range of small presses and performers, and I'm reading on the Saturday afternoon.

FutureEverything festival was stimulating as ever. I was involved with organising elements of it, this year, in my work context, which meant I didn't catch as much as I wanted. I particularly regret missing the Icelandic MP Birgitta Jónsdóttir since as well as being an activist and politician, she is a poet, and apparently read a poem as part of her keynote. However, I was lucky enough to have a chat with her outside the venue - without realising at first who she was - where we compared notes on reading poetry to different sizes of crowds. Iceland, that small, unique nation, that got so badly treated by the financial collapse of some of its overreached banks and companies, seems a canary in the capitalist coalmine. Its hardly a surprise that they value art and culture as important.
Chorlton Arts Festival continues over this coming final weekend. There are many things going on - and if the weather keeps as nice, it will surely be vibrant. 
I've been thinking again about my artistic process. Malcolm Gladwell's writing that "genius" is the result of "10,000 hours" of work is one of those memes that once heard, sticks with you. As someone who writes short and long fiction, poetry and music, I've certainly put in the hours, but I'm wondering whether that's too diverse a field. Do you get better by writing more? Is there a limit? Many writers say they are "rewriters" but I'm not sure I've ever agreed that that's the most important thing. I've often said to musician friends that they should write and record as much as they can at an early age - and same for writers - in that the "spark" or "inspiration"  - the ideas that you have often die out as you grow older: but if you've a large enough palette to go back to you can refresh and renew. I'm wondering if I'd have been a better/more successful writer if I'd kept writing novels? Its not that the ideas ran out, but that the energy involved seemed too great. I do know that I went from not really knowing what a short story was, to becoming a good story writer - and had, in the late 90s - quite a number published. Since then I've found it harder. Have I got worse? Have my ideas narrowed? I'm not sure. I've written over 100 stories yet have had very little success in the genre. Have I got worse? I don't think so - but perhaps I've got less focussed; or, here's another view, less brave. My stories used to be flights of fancy, written in a rush of inspiration - more recently they are worked over; sometimes painfully, sometimes over months. That said, I've read quite a lot of stories recently; there's been a resurgence in the publishing of the form; but I have to say I've been a little underwhelmed. I'm looking forward to the 2nd Salt anthology of "best short stories" as a snapshot of the art. So, is the issue that one needs to be single-minded about ones art to exclusion? I'm not so sure. A lot of poets/writers/musicians/artists I know want to diversify: whether its poets writing radio plays or stories or novels or whatever. Being very good in one genre doesn't necessarily lead to being very good in other areas of course, but something must survive, something must transfer. So, what to write next? I'm thinking about it, I'm thinking about it. 

A friend's book group was unimpressed by F. Scott Fitzgerald's "Tender is the Night", it was my favourite novel. But is it still? I picked it out of the cupboard and started reading it again; its been way too long. The copy I've got has pencil marks in the margin from when I was studying it at University (I've read it since, but at least a decade or go.) The reading group comments have been helpful actually; it is a novel not without flaws (as I've always known, and part of my fascination with it.) I could write 10,000 words just on this novel. Maybe I will. 


glemlyn said...

Your conclusion regarding Gladwell's so-called '10,000 hour rule' seems to overlook the fact that one needs an environment that will help, support, guide or teach the individual putting those hours in.

Naïvely spending 10,000 hours trying to light a match on a wet sponge will not give you skills in lighting matches.

Likewise, writing prose or poetry in a literary vacuum does not automatically mean one will become a better writer - however long one does it.

It should also be noted that there are many who strongly refute and criticize Gladwell's conclusions, however popular the meme may have become in popular culture.

Adrian Slatcher said...

I'm not a great fan of the 10,000 rule, and having read the book it doesn't really add up. But the "meme" does come to the mind, as memes tend to. I think its particularly hard to apply it to literature (had Harper Lee put in 10,000 hours? had Salinger?) (and its a very contested space when it comes to saying who is a "genius"). But the point I was probably struggling to make was: should one concentrate on one aspect (say, the short story or poetry) as opposed to writing a diverse range of things. I know a few writers who seem to be trying to "light the perfect match" and others who seem effortlessly to move from one form of writing to another. The supportive environment and putting the hours in clearly works in the conservatoire; but that's a particularly tough world and guess as many fall by the wayside as become successful musicians? "Let many flowers bloom" perhaps....