Wringing the words out

Very peculiar weekend of hot and oppressive weather, interspersed between storm fronts that brought little relief.

It was one of those weekends when it’s hard to do anything much. Because you’re sleep has been ragged you’re on the edge of tiredness all the time. It’s too hot to go outside, let alone work out there, and the hum of an overworked air-con, matched to a surreal air, makes it difficult to do anything too practical indoors. It’s no wonder that warmer climates lead to lassitude. Heat saps you of intent and purpose.

I learned long ago not to fight it, though occasionally I itch with the desire to do something worthwhile. I tried again yesterday, then gave up. Instead I sat on the couch and began watching a backlog of Californication episodes I’d yet to see.

That was much fun, and like catching up with an old friend, but it also ruined me in a way. I try and write every day, even when it’s so hot I can’t think straight. The story I’m working is pretty structured, by necessity. It requires a lot of discipline and thought. The style itself is more mannered than my natural style. Every bit of it requires attention.

The problem is I watch something like Californication and it loosens those bonds. One of the appeals of the show is that some inner part of me responds to it innately. Hank himself is wild, undisciplined and brilliant. There is a part of me like that, but blended somehow with a hard-nosed, belligerent and determined side. In theory it makes me bi-polar, except that I have pretty good control – control is something else I have, and in general the more disciplined side prevails.

I need the other side though. It’s where my creativity comes from. It’s what I use to come up with unexpected solutions in the work environment. It’s the part of me I let loose occasionally to have a lot of fun out on the town.

I watch something like Californication and that part of me stirs to life. Fuck, I think, I wish I was out partying/drinking/wenching. It’s a great feeling, like poking your head out of a moving car and feeling the wind in your face. Or doing something dangerous or unpredictable just for the fun of it. It’s dancing on the bar or making wittily provocative asides to women you hardly know. It’s a mindset and, when it happens, a way of life.

I’ve got the best of it really. Hank Moody lives in that world, whereas I only visit it occasionally for a bit of R&R – and less often in recent years than I’d like.

What it does though, is open my head. It makes me creative and experimental and often extravagant. It’s fine in the general run of things, and great for my writing more often than not – except when I’m trying to write such a structured book as I m now.

I couldn’t write yesterday afternoon. Actually, what I couldn’t write was the story I wanted to, though I could write any number of whimsical stories. My head was in the wrong place.

It made me realise that next time I’ll write a story closer to who I am. I’ve carried this story in me for a long time, and so it’s mine, but it requires a method that isn’t me – structured, mannered, contrived. The writing is mine, and recognisably so, but twisted a few degrees to reflect a certain perspective. It’s not a natural thing, and requires a lot of effort – whereas I really just want to express myself, to get out there, to be also-fucking-brilliant.

Having said that this story has been a good experience for me. I’ve had to think about my writing like I never had to before. I’ve had to weigh and consider everything. It will stand me in good stead when I revert to type, and I’ll be better for it.

Right now I’m feeling it because I’ve spent the best part of three weeks working on a single chapter. I finished it earlier today, but still don’t know if it’s right. I doubt it.

I can skip forward a bit now, and expect to have part one – about 75% of the book – completed by Christmas. What I do know for certain is that there will be another draft needed. Maybe after that I can go true Hank Moody.

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