Veronique Darwin

A Sense of Urgency

In Literature, My Writing on July 30, 2014 at 4:00 pm

Do ants carry dead ants around to bury them? I just saw that happen! I don’t think I killed the first ant, but I very well might have.

I am feeling a newfound sense of urgency to “complete” my novel. (Studio audience laughter). I recently finished a draft that got the story out cleanly. I am now working on a draft that should be easy – fill in the bits I missed and start to make it look nice! But there is a lot more rewriting involved in that than I thought. My spirits (just the ones inside of me) are waning.

Right now the wind is blowing so warmly that I am tempted to stay outside, even though a few minutes ago I set a schedule for myself saying I would go in and see the new fan and look at the cat at 4:00. It’s nice to make a schedule on an off-day and then defy it.

There is a sense of urgency, a sense that I told someone (my imaginary editor) that I would be done soon, but alas, I am nowhere near! This sense of urgency leads me to constantly feel guilty. I just want to sit and read this very hard Virginia Woolf book for a bit and then I think no – get back to your writing!

I just looked up “how to row a dinghy” as I have to do that tomorrow. The Internet has its limitations when it comes to street or boat smarts, which is often what I need it for!

Along with the sense of urgency to complete this draft comes a sense of negativity, of self-loathing as I reread the previous one. I was so rosy-coloured glasses about it. It almost doesn’t even seem like a novel. Don’t novels have characters that seem real? Don’t they have moments that are poetic, that make you stop and think, yes, someone really knows something about life. Well, mine doesn’t have that yet. I hope that’s okay.

Sometimes senses of urgency aren’t good, like when I’m trying to sleep, or when I’m trying to “take time off”. But it is a very good thing when I am driving at night or when I need to learn things quickly, like the ukulele (today or tomorrow) and how to row a dinghy. I know I need to chill out sometimes, but it’s hard when a story is so badly wanting to be written and I am writing it so poorly! What is driving me is having it done, but I also can’t imagine how much I’m going to hate the feeling of having nothing to do but continue to read, forever it seems, that really hard Virginia Woolf novel.

Godrevy_Lighthouse_St._Ives_Bay_Cornwall_England

 

(from wallpaper.org)

 

When Is Anything Done?

In My Writing, Thoughts on Writing on July 27, 2014 at 1:41 pm

People ask me if I am almost done the novel I am writing, like it’s a novel I’m reading and I’m about to move on to another. I could give writerly excuses, such as I am creating a world, and a world cannot be finished. Or I could claim to be a perfectionist who will never feel finished but will be forced to stop writing at some point. But the truth is I’m really not in any way almost done. I’ve been working on the same story for over three years now (which might make you think I’m almost done) but the truth is the novel itself as I imagine it doesn’t exist yet. It hasn’t been written.

I’ve written parts of it. I’ve written drafts that look like novels and I’m done those. But I am not done the thing itself that I am making. Say you are painting a tree. You’ve painted a tree, but you meant to paint the tree you were looking at. Wouldn’t you have to restart, to get the tree you see and not the simple, other one you painted? Wouldn’t you have to add the branches just the way you see them, have the light hit right where the light actually hits? Yes, I’ve done paintings of trees, but I haven’t painted my tree yet.

I’m reading Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. I can read a page and be done it, but have I really read it? I’m trying this thing I used to do when I was young (a mental challenge) where I don’t use bookmarks. I open the book up again hours later and I try to remember the page number I had put to memory, or the last event I read about. It used to be easier than finding a bookmark, and gave me a lasting ability to skim through pages. But Virgina Woolf isn’t very skimmable. It’s hard to find an event I was last at. It’s made me realize I read books a lot less closely than I should. It’s made me think about the power of rereading, of never actually finishing a page.

Because if I read To the Lighhouse and put it down, did I really read the book? Did I finish it, as it was intended to be finished? I probably won’t have spent a lot of time thinking of the ideas in the book, contemplating the characters’ motives, their relationships, the importance of the setting of the book or the intention of the author in bringing them all together. I would have read the words, yes, but I might not have read the book.

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(from boardgamegeek.com)

If the intention of writing a novel is to have it published, then one should keep working on the book until it is publishable. If the intention of writing a novel is to write the novel one intends to write, then shouldn’t one keep working on the book until the book feels like the book it was intended to be? Publishing, I think, will never be my goal when writing a novel. It will be a way to give the novel life, to let others read it and to let it be the form of art that it is. Is a painting really a painting if no one looks at it? If the tree you painted (the complete art form of the actual tree you saw and then transcribed, somehow, with your paintbrush, until you felt it represented the tree you knew) were never shown to anyone, would it really matter that you had painted it? You would have seen it, but you saw the tree too. What about the person across the world who has never seen that form of life, who has his or her whole life imagined a tree of such beauty, but never taken the trip to visit it? I think you’re painting that tree for them, so you should try your best not to lie about it.

The Perching Penman

In My Writing on July 4, 2014 at 7:37 am

I’ve discovered a new way of writing: writing by perching precariously on the edge of the couch, as though one has so many better places to be but has decided to stay a minute or two. The temporary nature of the pose offers an easy way out if writing isn’t going well and easy congratulations if one stays longer than the seating position suggests. It also adds a certain energy to the process, and makes one look very alert were someone to come in and “catch” you writing. I overall think it is improving my craft.

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