Waking up to autumn

It’s humid and warm, and the thick cloud spills showers throughout the morning. There’s a wind and scudding across my window. The new view, from the new study in the hallway, includes a section of white wall, which is now covered in slugs. They seem to be facing downhill, as though they arrived in the night from the sky and have managed to land, but realise they must make the long trek south to find land. The old study had only a roof light and the temptation to look up was not so strong. We probably carry genes to encourage horizontal rather than vertical vigilance.

It’s the end of a long summer, characterized by continuous work in the pottery and little else. Certainly no thought of writing. The routine was therapeutic. The schedule demanded and the demands were met, and the reward was simple and material. And then. And then.   There’s a novel to edit, with a need for some surgery, which will be tricky. Not that the body is cancerous, but there are blockages for sure, and perhaps the joints are stiff. My relationship with this novel is not simple. Perhaps every writer would say that about every book. When was it ever simple, true love. Is this my child? Not at all. Was it something I needed to wash off – no. Wasn’t it more like something I had to get into, like the gym? Something healthy and positive and practical.   It wasn’t a personal journey or an exorcism. It isn’t erudite or subtle. It was a process of jogging and then running.

And editing is a whole new process to develop. After seven years running a technical publishing company which generated about 10,000 pages of analytical text a year, I was used to a certain sort of editing which involved dissecting the work of others and trying to find the best in it, without undermining the confidence of the writer, but guiding them to expand on or replace elements. So, much the same as far as that goes. Fulfilling the brief, covering all the relevant elements of the topic, delivering satisfaction to the reader in terms of a rounded story, a complete picture… But what is the added element? A realization that this is what the story is really about, this is it’s point. Its raison d’etre. Sometimes that seemingly whole and well made thing is missing an element which isn’t apparent. Perhaps he is a mundane and unimaginative being without that creative spark, or that engaging emotional honesty. Sometimes he is ill-informed and myopic, but usually he is lazy. He hasn’t stretched himself. He hasn’t come out fighting, or perhaps he’s run a race and never noticed that he forgot to put on his running shoes. I’ve got to stop, go back and walk the route, to examine every inch of it, rather than feeling the wind in my legs and the finishing line ahead,. This will take a different mindset.

Then there are stories to write, another attempt at the family history perhaps. There’s a long winter in the offing, and inside, in the dust-filled bowl, there has to be something in which to germinate new plants.

 

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