Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A Different Engine

This blog was started to be a bit of an opportunity to discuss the creative process - and occasionally even veers in that direction. Yet, its far easier in many ways to be a pseudo-critic talking about, say, Doris Lessing, or Norman Mailer, than it is to get back to the basics of my creative process, my creativity. It seems a little ridiculous that anyone would be particularly interested in what I have to say about Mailer or Lessing - I'm no expert on either - in fact, there are few writers I'm an expert on. Fitzgerald and Chatwin maybe, but even there I could do with a bit of re-reading, and as for poetry, my expertise is limited, spread thin, a little Ashbery here, a little Donne there, enough to be conversational, not enough to be academic. The only writer I know inside out is me, myself and I, and I'd even have to add a caveat or two there - so little have I written over the last two or three years. Only a year ago I wrote a little novella, which I'm painfully aware I've not done anything about really, aware that its length; its completeness, probably don't help it in any way. So, how ridiculous that I'm now contemplating not only a novel, but a big novel, bigger, longer, larger than any I've attempted before - with a bizarre schematic that includes all human life. Such an impossible task. Yet, I'm kind of liberated by the thought. This is no easy lay. This is love or nothing. Something to get my teeth into and not worry too much about whether its publishable, libellous, believable or even writable. Step at a time. So by thinking bigger I can create something more achievable - isn't that weird? Yet I'm wondering if that's not what I need. And in some ways the models are there - even now, just writing a few tentative lines, plotting a few subplots, I'm galvanised by thoughts of "Daniel Deronda" and "Bonfire of the Vanities." The vehicles are there before me, I just need to insert a different engine.


Jim Murdoch said...

Firstly, it doesn't matter if you've only read one sentence by each of the aforementioned authors, you are as entitled as anyone to voice an opinion and, as an opinion, by its very nature, is neither wrong now right, the only thing is can be is interesting. It doesn't mean anyone will agree with you but, as long as it is a considered opinion and not simply an off-the-cuff remark to get attention then say what you have to say and stand by it even if you feel you have to add the proviso, "I've not read much of so-and-so's work, but…"

Secondly, I'm fairly sure all your plans will go west once you start writing. Having a plan is fine and good but, as I'm sure you have realised already, the writer only has a limited amount of control over where his writing goes. At the moment I'm trying to write a novella, to keep the text lean and to the point but I'm a wordy bugger and it's hard. Besides it is both easy and boring to write about what you know. It is far better to write about what you want to know about because the writing of it may lead to its discovery. Not every artist works on a tiny canvas, some use spray cans and other people's walls.

Thirdly, as far as writing goes, there's no such thing as an easy lay unless you're talking about writing out your Xmas shopping list.

Adrian Slatcher said...

Jim, thanks for the comments - novellas are hard, but good, hope you manage to nail it.