Listening to Geraldine Brooks on radio this week, I heard her say that writing was like ‘building a stone wall’ – just putting one stone on top of another. Thank you, Geraldine.
Because this week, at a borrowed desk (thanks to Kelly Gardiner) and at cafes and libraries, on borrowed time (thanks to my husband and parents and the various wonderful people we pay to look after our children), I have been grappling with first taking apart my manuscript and then trying to piece it together again, word by word, stone by stone.
It hurts sometimes. And it is also exhilarating. The cutting – the letting go of words – sometimes feels the best. At times, it feels like it is absolutely the most important thing to be doing, and at others it feels frivolous and pointless and a waste of good time and money when I could be doing a thousand other things that might be more useful or worthwhile or make some kind of a difference to the world. (Every writer feels like that at some point, right?)
Half-listening, as I was, to Brooks speak, I caught her laughing at the ‘romanticisation’ of the life of the writer, and at risk of misquoting her, she said something along the lines of – there is absolutely nothing romantic about it. No. Not right now, there’s not. (And I say that, being mindful that previous posts have included the words ‘Varuna’ and ‘Ubud’ – and one wouldn’t want to come across as an ungrateful wanker. Sometimes it does live up to the dream.)
So, onwards. Stone by stone. I will stop looking at the whole unwieldy mass of notes and versions and deletions and additions and timelines and character lists and emails from my editor and her notes (sometime in red AND in bold) and take it a sentence at a time. Word by word when need be. Knowing that others, dear friends among them, are facing far greater and more significant challenges in their life (challenges that really are real and not writerly angst) in much the same manner – hour by hour, day by day, one stone at a time. This is easy, in comparison. I’ll take a leaf from their books.
Deep breath. Carry on.