By the end of 2017 I was creatively and mentally exhausted and beginning to hate the second novel, all that stagnation. Then I briefly left Melbourne on holiday and took mediocre photos of things I found interesting, whispered in my ear. For the first time in a long time I didn’t write a single word while I was away. I simply walked, explored, thought, let myself give into all feeling and emotion, stayed silent as much as possible. And then I returned home. I now have the hauntings of future work somewhere in the back of my mind. Suffer my (very selected) holiday photo reel: Photo 1: my favourite holiday photo Morning. That cold, made heart burn. I walked further into the forest to make warmth from blood movement. The sound of unknown birds, of old-bone tree limbs stretching. The wind, the wind. I made eye contact with the top of trees, saw X-Ray lungs, a cancer. Reminded myself that I am just another human on the continuum of a spinning planet. I kept walking.
My mind is a rush. For weeks I’ve divided days into categories: See What I Have Done and Blue Mountain. I find it difficult to generate new scenes or ideas for Blue Mountain on any day I need to deal with Lizzie. It’s emotionally and mentally tiring to have to deal with all those characters while they congregate in the same place. Which is frustrating because right now I need to be working on both. I moved on from See What I Have Done around August last year. Although I was knee deep in edits and still had proof reads to look forward to, I’d fallen in love with a new novel that germinated from a strange dream I’d had years before and which had been waiting for me to come back to it when Lizzie was done (yes, I’m aware I’m beginning to hang a lot of respsonbility on dreaming for writing but whatever). Suffice to say, I got shitty when the Bordens interrupted my dates with Blue Mountain. But on we’d go and …
As much as you want ideas to turn into good then great prose, some days and weeks it just doesn’t happen. Last week was particularly bad. All that turgid writing. I was working on a new section, my characters going down paths so completely wrong in tone and emotion that I felt I’d lost them, that I no longer had control. I’d had bad periods of writing before but this was something else. The things I told myself: this was proof that I was a weak writer, that I really don’t have anything whatsoever to contribute to the world of literature. I told myself to walk away now while the going was good. No one need to know about this failed novel, you imposter. Maybe allow a more talented writer to find the seed of this novel and turn it into gold. I realised after a few days that the problem was that I wasn’t connecting with anything that was happening on the page. And if I wasn’t connecting, what hope would the next draft …
I don’t like to overthink my writing habits too much but music is very important to me both during a writing session and after. For See What I Have Done I listened to the same songs (adding very few to the playlist) for eleven years. It’s time again to live in an aural loop until a book is complete. Here is a small sample of music for Blue Mountain that I will be listening to until it becomes a skin, the tip of a pen: Below is a very small selection of songs I like listening to after a day of writing. They change all the time (unlike the loop). This week I listened to:
I often forget I should regularly post to this blog. I’m working on a new post about Lizzie Borden and writing history ( I figured rather than my usual ramblings, I should, you know, plan a post ) but felt like adding some photos here today. I’m in my composting and early writing phase of my new novel and that has led me to be drawn to particular images as I walk around and explore. All of these are foundations for theme and aesthetic but may not necessarily turn up in the novel in quite the way you imagine. WARNING: Some of these photos are of dead animals I came across while walking and may not be your thing.
I don’t think I’ve ever truly known when to walk away from the work, think of it as done. This may explain why it takes me too long to finish a novel or a short story: this created planet, spinning on its axis, keeps falling into rhythms of day and night that I then eventually accept that’s the way things are, that I have to continue living in the world long after I have to so that the story I’ve told feels authentic, alive. Even today I thought of new ways I could make Lizzie grow into that house on Second Street, make it small like a pocket: there she is hiding dirty clothes in the walls; there rubbing her back against a door knob; there singing at the top of her lungs; there holding clandestine dinner parties while Andrew and Abby are at the Swansea property; there at night going up to the attic to watch Bridget sleep.
List of new characters so far: The Turners George, Kitty, Badger, young Eleanor Surrounding adult Eleanor Braun, Amy. Been thinking of George lately. Aspects of his life are forming: