Apologies to anybody who came over to Fractured Paths last week. For those of you who did, and saw no new content, no new verbosity of ideas about what and why we each do and when we do it (much of which, I can't quite get my own head around); well, for those of you who invested time in me, and who were dissatisfied, I am truly sorry.
As I write this, I'm listening to progressive metal in a soundproof booth-like alcove in the National Library of Wales (thank you, Aberystwyth, for something), sniffling.
My third and final year of my Undergraduate degree is now in swing (I can't really say full swing, because, as a student of Creative Writing, I only have four hours of seminars/workshops each week...). What this vast block of weekly liberty should be is the opportunity for me to find myself sitting in front of this very screen, typing ideas for my Writing Project (the Creative Writer's Dissertation at Aberystwyth), and focusing on ideas for blogs now and far into the future. I should be reading and reading and consuming the techniques of the craft until my head aches.
Soon, I promise.
The flu is a harsh mistress. Especially when I have spent all summer being excited about my next academic year. I've got so much going on – my W.P. as mentioned, a module on writing Science Fiction and Fantasy, a module entitled Textual Interventions, which is all about writers experimenting with our writing ideas; decentring, re-centring, minimal-izing, and whatever else is in store. Therefore, sitting here, in the National Library, with a bottle of cough syrup, two packets of cough sweets and a box of tissues, why has my immune system decided that now! is the best time for me to have the energy of a corpse?
The last four, maybe five mornings I've woken up with sinuses less willing to unblock than the most obdurate, stubborn child would be to turn the television off when they're watching their favourite cartoon. I'm certain (I promise, I am) that the moment when my body begins to revitalize, and instauration hits me and suddenly I'm a swath of irrigable land in springtime, is only a day or two away. As such, I've roused myself to come and do some work, because from last Friday, all the way through to yesterday morning, I was in stasis. Not writer's block, rest assured. I've been making little notes here and there about my Writing Project all week, trying to cast a parochial and more insular eye on a project that in its earliest planning stages might have been looking at accumulating a much, much bigger word count than the one we are restricted to. No, what I've had over the last few days, is a complete lack of motivation.
Shortly before I returned to Wales, three weeks ago, 130 miles north of here in murky Manchester, I made an Aberystwyth Work Plan to get up between 8-9am each morning, and work until maybe lunchtime, do some reading later on, and after some more work, go to bed around midnight (during this time, I might even eat some food). How naive! It was as if I'd forgotten what being a student is. Not just being a student, but being myself. I'm the sort of person who can be sitting at my desk one minute with no plans for the day, and then suddenly, three hours later, be drunk in a bar with a friend who sent me an off-the-cuff text saying "Lunch?"; I'll walk three miles to buy something, and if it turns out the shop does not have it, I'll smile and walk back home, and the experience will have been helpful. I won't complain, because what I did was unplanned. I was in complete control of my own decisions, I took the risk knowing it was a risk. There was little point to the objective, no doubt, since all I really buy these days are books and bottles of gin (neither of which preclude the other; no, in fact, they complement one another!), but for me, even when I plan, I try to bear in mind a need to adapt to the oft-forgotten small print of life, the unwritten rule of one's day: random stuff happens. It will. Have you ever read a thriller or a crime novel where an ordinary guy's day suddenly becomes the most accelerated life-or-death-everything's-on-the-line scenario? If not, I highly recommend Simon Kernick.
This week, throwing up two fingers to my schedule, I have been waking up at around 10am. My father sighs when he hears of such obscenities, but only because he was in the bar by that time when he was a student. My Productivity Zenith is usually mid-afternoon or in the evening; however, even this has to be a bit unplanned, and never at the same time as the day before. The muse works differently for everybody and, for me, harnessing the puissance of my imagination isn't something I can do in a regimented fashion. At least, not right now. For me, it's about finding that right moment as much as it is about letting the moment hit me. It happens every day, to be sure. There have been times in lectures where, while not really listening to the litany of tragic happenings to some ye olde writer, I've ripped out a page from a notepad and started scribbling the plot of a short story. The ideas come to me quickly, so I have to group words in my head that I can store and come back to. Themes such as faith or guilt that, with any character in any story, you can come back to, exploring and exploring and each time, you'll learn something new about the theme, the character, and yourself.
Usually when I finish a piece of fiction or poetry, I'm immediately dissatisfied with it and ready to reread and edit; what I often find when I finish, though, is that I've not written a skeleton. I've written something that has touched me emotionally, and that's good, I suppose?
Last Thursday was National Poetry Day. I have decided, therefore, to add this small little poem of mine to this post.
The ink fades from the page,
Corrupt droplet stains mark
The poison that lingers,
As deep as your breath, as
Vivid as your touch, as
Cruel as your smile.
The memories waver,
A life shared, fractured,
Carved into nervures anew;
We each take a new path.
Yours, you have chosen;
Mine, mine is in shadow.
I wrote this poem nearly two years ago, and I've read it perhaps ten times in total. I like it. It is a poem that drips emotion as is clear in its very first metaphor of ink fading from a page. Droplets and stains, marks; lingering. These words are not describing a huge blotch on a white canvas, at least, not in my head. They are small. A droplet is not a splash. Stains are usually small and irritating and occur most in my life when I forget that I'm eating a curry with a white linen shirt on (dumbass...). Yet, we take these words, and we spin them around, give them a new focus. This poem, alas, is not about curry.
When something lingers, it adopts a sort of background presence. You know it remains. A smell, a feeling, a shade of something. The lingering of something almost seems to embody the idea of a mid-presence. Something that is not there, and yet is. The ghost of something now gone. The remnants. The caried teeth and desiccated corpse of a once boisterous, vivacious person; the thin, greying mist of an October rain. Breath, touch, smile. Think of a lover, a friend, a relative. Now, respectively, imagine their breath on your neck, their reassuring touch that everything will be OK, and that smile when you say goodbye until next Christmas. They become memories. Fond memories, and they linger positively. Until something fractures the link. Breakup, betrayal, bereavement. The links change. To remember is to remember the good times, and yet invite your conscience to revile and chastise you for looking back. To go back is to linger in a physical, dwelling style. To go back is to see the differences, and create comparisons.
We cannot. Life changes every day.
This poem is powerful to me, because the first stanza allows you to think and interpret what is happening, what might have happened, and what will come next; the second stanza speeds up psychologically, and everything is unravelling, contrary to how the narrator wants it to be, and when the poem ends, the narrator is in a state of unknowing. Mine, mine is in shadow.
In many ways, ink fading is not a metaphor. The narrator hasn't been talking about ink though, has he/she?
Account for the occasional lack of motivation. Be prepared for the odd day or two when you won't achieve as much as the day before. It happens. Random stuff happens and gets in the way. It took me nearly two hours this morning to prove my identity to the National Library. I hadn't expected it, and so I've missed lunch. Yet I've shared something I hadn't expected to share, with you, dear reader. We are a little closer now, you and I.
Be yourself. If you're ritualistic, then accept it, but check you didn't drop anything, twice; if you're spontaneous, then I challenge you to do five star jumps in a public place in the next five minutes. But would a spontaneous person listen, or only do five, even?
Don't let the ink fade too much.