Early this morning, I sent the Daily Tips Email to my company’s mailing list, and waved my husband out the door at 7 am. I’d been up since 5.30 am, but somehow didn’t shower and dress until after 9. In between times, I had a heated exchange (which was really just me on my soapbox) via SMS with a friend about the state of the world, folded some washing, and generally felt stuck on things.
There are so many projects on my table.
And so many books to read.
And so many films to watch.
There are right now, on my kitchen table, as I record this, six books in various states of being read. One of them for pleasure, three for work, the rest for propaganda.
It isn’t all of them.
Looking around the place, I felt a cascade of tasks…
* essay to write for propaganda
* flash fiction to write
* work to do following up Ultimatum‘s latest audition files
* planning my next non-fiction book
* first read and notation of The Integration Project.
So instead I went and talked to the plants in my garden as I watered them. Bra-less, barefoot, I picked my way through the daisies and kept eyes peeled for potential snakes in the long grass. I’m fairly certain there are copperheads in the backyard, in the compost bin, so I get a little concerned this time of year. Except, the long grass shimmers silver in the sun and I can’t bear to cut back.
Eventually I decided that because propaganda is such a long-term project, and because The Integration Project is so close to the first rewrite, that spending time on The Integration Project is more important. Films can be watched any morning or evening; essays can be written daily; but Wednesday is one full day for one full thing.
So I set up my laptop and started installing Ubuntu, so that I can build a static site on Gatsby.
Eventually I did get around to reading The Integration Project; and every time I dive into it, I am astonished at the pace. It seemed to drag on and on and on and on and on when I was writing it. In the reading, it’s a totally different experience.
The author’s voice throughout is revolting, however, and there are metres of it on the cutting-room floor already.
I’m excitefully dreading the rewrite, even though the rewrite is fundamentally the best part of any writer’s work. It’s that moment when you can stop thinking about the story and craft the prose, the emotion, and therewith bribe your reader to feel your feelings.
It’s not quite there.
I went and sat in the full sun at lunch time for just shy of 10 minutes. You know, it’s super healthy to do that; long enough for me to gain the benefit, without the damage.
Then I ate.
And I ate.
And I walked around.
When I was tired, I went and played the piano for a while.
Returning, as ever, to The Integration Project.
Annie Dillard, in her beautiful volume The Writing Life, which I treasure unlike most of the books in my book-stuffed home, lights me on fire and makes me despair, all at once. Her prose is perfection. Her feeling is just right.
And sometimes she says exactly what I feel I need to know.
‘A project that takes five years will accumulate those years’ inventions and richnesses. Much of those years’ reading will feed the work. Further, writing sentences is difficult whatever their subject. It is no less difficult to write sentences in a recipe than sentences in Moby Dick. So you might as well write Moby Dick.’
Thus it is that, while I plough through The Integration Project and despair of seeing progress on Propaganda, there is that small thing inside me that knows the time is never wasted.
‘At its best, the sensation of writing is that of any unmerited grace. It is handed to you, but only if you look for it. You search, you break your heart, your back, your brain, and then – and only then – it is handed to you.’
So it is.
And with that, I return yet again to The Integration Project lest I waste the precious, focused time I have left before the Real World pulls me back in, and I force myself to participate lest things apparently more important than words begin to fray.
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