Monday, June 18, 2007

I'm sure it was easier last time

I have to admit to a certain amount of laziness over the past few weeks. Where I should have been busy at my craft, I have instead rather coasted along, doing very little in the way of creativity and even less of financially remunerative work.

It's often the way with me; if I have some event in the not too distant future to focus on, then I get fixated on it to the detriment of anything else. I'm great at living in the past, quite content to daydream endlessly about what might yet come to be, but very bad indeed at living in the here and now.

A fortnight on Thursday, I have to get on a train* and go down to London, there to smile sweetly and personally congratulate the winner of this years Debut Dagger award whilst inwardly cursing them their jammy luck. I've known this for quite some time now, and it has formed a little mental block in my calendar. My illogical half tells me that everything will change after this event, and I need not worry about doing anything until then. My logical half says that nothing will change, nothing really ever does, and if I don't get on with some real work my brain will atrophy.

My logical half is right about at least one thing. I've become very disorganised of late - forgetting meetings, not emailing people or returning calls when I should, being late with reports and stuff. I find it very hard to concentrate the mind, and instead flit from project to project like a fly in a field full of cows. I feel like I'm being pulled in a hundred different directions, as if stress is being piled upon stress and I'm expected to do ten times as much as usual. But in truth, I've my normal workload, perhaps slightly less.

Maybe that's the problem; not enough work to keep me busy. But I've been trying to compensate by launching myself wholeheartedly into the sequel to Natural Causes. I know the basic premise of the story - it popped into being whilst I was writing the first novel, and I have every hope that the idea for the third will emerge from the writing of the second.** Right now, though, I have three Word files open, one called 'thinking with my fingers', one called 'Dramatis Personae' and one called 'plot'. Mostly I have been working on the first one, just jotting down all the ideas and snippets in one place, trying to distil them into something that might be interesting and exciting to read.

I've done similar things with all my recent books. I've had to, as the knack I used to have for holding an entire novel in my head has evaporated over the years. Maybe it's a Martini-induced memory loss. Or it could be that I dream up more complex scenarios now than ever I did as a lad. Whatever the reason, it seems to get more difficult every time.

Unless, of course, my memory of those past halcyon times is tinted with a deep, deep rose.

Sooner or later I'll build up enough of a head of steam -probably when the 'thinking with my fingers' file gets to about 6 or 7k words (it's about 3.5 now) - and then I'll launch into the actual writing. At that point, most of what I've done before will be forgotten and I'll get swept up in the making shit up as I go along phase of the book, which is much more fun.

But for now it's all a bit of a muddle.

* I am not looking forward to this. I've not been on a British train in many, many years, and all my reservations about such public transport are only confirmed by Mr Stuart's recent experiences.
** although I do have an enigmatic note on my whiteboard reading "Book3 = ### #####" (I've blanked out the real words, just in case it never happens.)

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Blogger Sandra Ruttan said...

I'm the same way James. If there's something looming, I find it very hard to focus. I suppose the cure is to always have something looming so you get used to it...

June 18, 2007 6:02 pm  
Blogger Vincent said...

British trains aren't that bad. Lacking a car, I travel by train whenever I can't walk and they regularly get me where I need to go (except when the country's hit by hurricanes - then they tend to get a bit flaky). The absolute key to successful train travel in my experience is not to have to arrive on time. If it doesn't matter when you arrive, trains are fine, when you've got an interview down in Norwich and the train is standing still one hundred yards outside Peterborough station for no apparent reason... well, brains aren't equipped to deal with that much of the frustration hormone.

Alternatively, just avoid travelling to Norwich. That works too.

June 18, 2007 7:33 pm  

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