Saturday, December 02, 2006

Prematurely Reviewing the Year

Now its December I think I can offer a little reflection on my creative year. A little early, but I know how December pans out, and time for reflection goes by the wayside. I doubt anything particularly exciting is likely to happen in the next month, anyway. I've not had as much time for reading, writing, watching films, going to galleries as I'd like. I managed a couple of days with work in Brussels, and a couple of trips to London, one for the modernism exhibition at the V&A. I was trying to remember when I last went to the cinema - it might even have been Ken Loach's "The Wind That Shakes the Barley" when I was over in Liverpool. A long hot summer put me off being indoors more than was necessary. Creatively, I seem to have been hardly awake at all: yet I finished the first draft of the novella I started in 2005. There's been a couple of decent short stories as well, but I'd wanted to write more - or at least complete more; there's a number I've started, and perhaps the one thing I might find some time to do before the end of the year. Not that it matters that much; since outlets remain limited - my stories tend to be over 3000 words in general, so a lot of magazines look for something shorter. I've also almost completed a 3rd poetry pamphlet, with around 25 poems, more metaphysical than usual, probably more consistent in tone. But need to spend a little more time on it before I make it available. Collation - of my music in particular - has taken up more energy than creation; it's not a bad thing to do, but I always wish I'd more time - or was able to create more time - to make some new music as well as new fiction/poetry. There's clearly a limit to what I can fit in. It seems a year of treading water; and though this blog has kept me a little connected in a literary sense; I've not had time or inclination to hobnob that much. "Verberate" was a nice regularly literary evening out, and I read at it earlier in the year; more nervous than I'd been at past readings, for some reason. Though I think I'm a good reader, I don't think I'm that disposed to reading - or that my work's particularly suitable for it. That was poetry of course. I've read a few books this year, and tried to fit in more than usual. I liked Sebastian Barry's "A Long, Long Way", but was as likely to read genre fiction - Asimov, Paretsky - as contemporary literature. The literary prizes haven't seemed particular exciting - or even consistent this year - and I think we're suffering a little from a new voice, or a new way of seeing things. Politics, so often out of the frame, has made some little comeback, but inevitably its non-fiction books rather than the increasing number of novels referencing "the war against terror" that most of us turn to. I don't seem to have either the patience, or the routine, to embed reading into my life in the way that I'd like, and whether I get a new job or stay where I am, improving that equilibrium seems a key one. I've got time - as time spent writing this blog proves - but haven't got the focus I used to have. That said, the one longer story that I did write, which I'm still waiting to hear from one of our slower magazines about, is as good as any I've written, I think. I believe I'm somehow sharpening my own political intent in the things I am writing, and effectively. The sometime ephemera of contemporary life seems to get more ephemeral as time goes by; whether its the Z-list celebrities of reality TV shows, or the bitesized commentary of so many blogs. I'm writing a new story this weekend, which is about the ephemera of success/popularity - how the opportunities it can sometimes provide often squeeze out the original reason you were doing things. Its thinking about the designer Peter Saville now creating a "brand" for Manchester; and what that sort of corporate commission might do to a creative's muse. "YouTube" and "MySpace" for instance, despite their estimable worth as "connectors", seem to create an endless clickable nothingness. I'm perhaps at an age and time in my life, where I want something with a little more depth - and yet contemporary culture seems less willing to provide it. I end up on little annoying crusades, like that which Patrick Ness has joined today in the Guardian, complaining about the poor quality of most books these days. Its ironic, that at a time when the "physical" product - whether book, CD or film - is under an assault from the "virtual", the care that once went into that physical product seems so much less. Its not just the yellowing pages of non-acid-free paper, but the seeming lack of interest in creating a product that will last beyond the season. In the next few weeks, I'm going to start early on new years resolutions: read more, write more. The blog still helps more than it hinders, but I'm wondering for how long?

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