How books are made.

The dentist did not send us a
reminder of our half yearly visit this year and I have used it as an excuse to
avoid the visit.  Even though I
know in the back of my mind that I should call for an appointment, I use the
dentist’s failure to send out a reminder as an excuse to avoid doing what I
know I must eventually do.  
signed up for the Keiser weight training though, that’s a tick in the box of
the doing-things-good-for-you category, but for the dentist and the rest I
can’t claim much success.  The rest
being all those other jobs I put off until I must get them done, the washing,
report writing, cleaning out cupboards, but I will get there. 
Procrastination I call it, the
demon of progress.  My greatest
avoidance is to immerse myself in the book I tell myself I am writing.  Actually it’s written, mostly, only I
must put it together, make the pieces into a whole, and eliminate that which is
I joined a class recently, six
sessions,  to help us produce a manuscript, and Lee Kofman who takes this class gave me the task of working on my structure, at least four hours a
week.  Lee knows how much I hate
Even the word sends shivers through
me.  I gather that structure is
like a skeleton on which the flesh of the story hangs, but then I think of what
Julian Barnes has Flaubert say to us in his novel, Flaubert’s Parrot:
Books aren’t
made in the way that babies are made: they are made like pyramids.  There’s some long pondered plan, and
then great blocks of stone are placed one on top of the other, and it’s
back-breaking, sweaty time-consuming work.  And all to no purpose! 
It just stands like that in the desert!  But it towers over it prodigiously.  Jackals piss at the base of it and
bourgeois clamber to the top of it, etc.
I lack structure, I entirely lack
structure through out my life.  The
obvious example to me comes in my approach to housework.  I might start to tidy up the kitchen sink,
put dishes in the dishwasher, wipe nearby benches, but as I stand stacking and
wiping a thought will come into my mind about what needs doing elsewhere or an
object will appear in my line of vision that needs to be put somewhere else and I
will traipse up through the hallway to the bedroom or bathroom or wherever and
while in this new room I will see something else that needs attention, the
bathroom cupboard calls for re-arranging for instance, and I will work on
this.  Pathetic really.
I hold my experience of my father
responsible.  My father may have
been a man of structure but he passed none of it down to me.
 The man of structure even as underneath the neatness he was beginning to fall apart.  
When my daughters complain about
writing an essay, their father will insist they come up with a plan first of
all.  Then he will urge them to
work on a beginning, a middle and an end. 
Say what you are going to say, say it and then say what you’ve
said.  Simple. Hey presto – a
typical academic essay. 
To me it’s boring, but if I had
learned this, whether from my father or from the nuns at school, I might not be
in trouble with this book as I am today. 
I do not plan anything in this way,
not anything written.  No, I simply
plunge in where the fancy takes me and I wind up with many possible beginnings,
several chunky middles and an occasional ending, but they do not necessarily
fit well together.   I
cannot get the form.  As Julian Barnes writes:
Form isn’t an
overcoat flung over the flesh of thought (that old comparison, old in
Flaubert’s day); it’s the flesh of thought itself.  You can no more imagine an Idea without a Form than a Form
without an Idea.  Everything in Art
depends on execution: the story of a louse can be as beautiful as the story of
Alexander.  You must write
according to your feelings, be sure those feelings are true, and let everything
else go hang, when a line is good, it ceases to belong to any school.  A line of prose must be as immutable as
a line of poetry.
Blogging is the perfect medium for
me because it can be more chaotic than a novel.  My only structure is the weekly post.  The rest I leave up to chance.  And chance is a fickle creature,
sometimes she offers wondrous gifts and at other times, a load of crap.  

Blogging and the desire for revenge

Some thoughts from my thesis on life writing and the desire for revenge:

I keep a blog as a means of practising my autobiographical writing. I keep a blog as a means of expressing myself on the page, but not only for myself. I keep a blog to draw to me an external audience of other people whose voices might endorse my thoughts, or challenge them, and thereby help me develop.

As Steven wrote in a comment some time back, blogging acts as a ‘call and response’ form of communication, whereby the blogger leaves a post to which other bloggers and readers of blogs might comment.

My desire for revenge trickles through my blog posts in subtle ways that may or may not not be obvious. They are nevertheless apparent to me, at least to the part of me that has long felt silenced, in the first instance within my family of origin, in which I am the sixth of nine.

In keeping a blog I subvert the overlapping restrictions on my life and battle my way out of the fog of censorship. I reconstruct myself and in so doing I enact my desire for revenge.

I pay back those who might wish to silence me by writing about the process of being silenced. I thereby expose actions and events, which were once secret, hidden, concealed from view, because they were assessed as taboo.

I explore these concealments through elements of self-disclosure, aware that the desire for revenge when given voice can attract a counter attack, a different version of the desire on the part of those who would prefer that I ‘shut up’, and let them have the only say.

Like Natalie Goldberg, ‘I write because I kept my mouth shut all my life…I write out of hurt and how to make hurt okay’. In so doing I may well hurt or offend others and they in turn can respond accordingly.

As a blogger I have access to identities, my own and those of others, that I could not have known had I continued my writing life in hard copy only.

My blogging life highlights the fluidity of my mind states and how quickly they can change. Likewise, other bloggers come and go. A blog’s shelf life is limited. Blogs that once started in a welter of enthusiasm now lie dormant, but they remain accessible forevermore through the Internet, like relics of the past.

The rapid speed of connection via the Internet enables a response such that by the time I have written and posted an autobiographical reflection; for example, on my resentment and frustrations about the struggle to write free of internal censorship, my state of mind has changed. I no longer feel as I did when I wrote the piece. I may feel that way again one day but for the time I become enthused again and fired up.

My comments to my blog followers, my ‘bleeders’ as Julie Powell calls them, begin to feel fraudulent. I am no longer the person I was when I wrote the piece in the first instance. I have resumed my confident writing stance, a position I am more likely to take up in response to others’ comments about my writing and when I comment on other people’s blogs.

There is a mantra that underlies many blogs: This is your blog. You can write what you like. You can do, as you will. This is your space. Yet there are unwritten constraints that demand consideration if one is to attract a readership.

Bloggers, like all writers, desire a readership. Otherwise why blog? Why write?