Twenty-Six

The cat dances on the largest leaf of a potted plant. It is a small cat, tiny, hardly bigger than a bumble bee. The cat seems to levitate above the dusty surface of the leaf. The leaf is dusty because the house has not been cleaned in a while, and skin cells keep sloughing off its inhabitants. The inhabitants are watching TV with the sound off in a brightly lit living room. The sound is off so the inhabitants can have a conversations, but they’re all just silent, looking at the people flickering on screen. A man shoots another man through the back of the head. In the room, one of the inhabitants flinches and remembers where he is. He looks around, meets no-one’s eye, and extends a hand towards a glass bowl on the table filled with nuts. He picks at the nuts with a hand puckered into a kind of beak, like delicate water fowl, and collects a few nuts. He sinks back into his chair and places the nuts in the palm of his other hand, above his lap in case he spills any. The nuts are mixed: some walnuts, some hazelnuts, which he discards, and some cashews. The hazelnuts return to the bowl in pairs, and the rest of the nuts are slowly placed into his mouth and chewed into a paste to which more nuts are added. He feels like he is making cement. Eventually, he swallows the paste and on screen a man surprises his wife (?) in the shower. It is not clear whether or not she is his wife because the subtitles aren’t reliable and that fact was seemingly never addressed. The inhabitants all assume that it doesn’t matter what the naked woman’s official title is, because all we know about her from the way the scene is shot is that she is young, she is pretty, and she is an actress with an unfortunate contract. The cat is so small the inhabitants cannot see it slide off the dusty leaf of the houseplant and into a watering can at the foot of the pot. The cat has fallen into the watering can and is seen no more. Presumably, it can swim, but only for so long. It cannot fly, and there is only one way out of the watering can, and that is through flight. A few hours later, the cat is presumably dead but no-one checks on it because the inhabitants do not know it’s there. One by one they stretch and yawn and leave the room until the last one, the one who ate the nuts, gets up, stretches for the benefit of no-one in particular, and turns off the set.

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[In other news, NaNoWriMo nears its end. Today is the second-to-last day, and I’ve amassed about 43000 words so far, which means I’ve got some serious work ahead of me if I want to reach the required 50ooo by Wednesday night.]

Thirteen

The hard thing for me isn’t so much starting something new as it is dealing with my tendency to behave like a squirrel, or a creature with a short attention span. No, maybe that’s not it. What I wan to talk about is that I scatter: myself, my focus, my writing.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I have a tendency to keep too many notebooks. I start new ones before filling old ones simply because I get drawn to their shiny new covers, the fact that they have a different format, a different feel. I scatter myself, too, as though I am lacking a foundation, and what I think I ought to be varies from one day to the next, making it difficult to get up in the morning and know what my focus will be.

When it comes to writing, let’s say the piece I’m working on at the moment, it’s not usually a matter of first-draft-second-draft-third-draft.
A first draft will usually be in one piece, short enough to hint at what it is I want to say.
The second draft is where the problem comes in: instead of reworking the story in a single file, collating all of my ideas, I will work on parts of the story in one file, then add potential scenes in another file, then leave the whole thing to rot in a corner for months, until, on some overcaffeinated train journey when I don’t have my laptop with me, I will start scribbling thoughts about the piece in my notebook.
I will vow to pick the piece back up as soon as I’ve gathered enough material, and I will continue collecting thoughts in my notebook until I’ve scattered the piece into as many different directions as possible.

Then, when the time in my schedules comes to actually work on the piece, i.e. stitch it together from a first draft blueprint and a bunch of disjointed notes, scenes, and ideas, I freeze up. I hide under my desk, hide in the folds of the internet, and I do anything I can to avoid having to sit down and go through the material I’ve amassed. I tell myself I will be overwhelmed if I have to face all of it. It’s a ridiculous time, and it happens every time a story needs to be reworked.

But it’s getting easier: this dance once took me several weeks to finish. Now, overcoming the fear seems to only take four or five days of whining, feeling sorry for myself for having to – the horror – read through my own thoughts and make something bigger out of them.

This gives me hope.

Maybe this is evidence of a growing trust in my creative process.

Maybe this signifies a loosening of the urge to measure up.

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