Island Life, Word Birds & Process
My ability to ignore distractions is pretty good. So long as I’m at home writing, as opposed to hanging in a cafe or suchlike, I can concentrate reasonably well on my current work in chaos. The world at large is far too interesting & full of shiny. Paradoxically, silence is a complete no-no too – there’s no such thing when you live in even a small town & distractions abound. When I’m writing I need familiarity: a touch of Radio 4 in the background, music that fits my mood; add the view from Withering Heights & I’m good to go.
Background is the operative word. I don’t need to be able to distinguish particular words. My own are what count. So long as I’m where I belong, the lyrics to songs turn into a sweet humming & I can crack on happily.
What interests me though is how, when I’m editing, some words do get through. It’s only certain songs that can do this. I don’t have a play list – my choices are pretty random. Or are they? An album I return to over & again while editing (& writing) is Kate Bush’s Aerial. In particular, the second CD: A Sky of Honey. I know the words to every song almost by heart. If I could only take one album to that desert island, this would be it. And this week, as I began the first important pass on Book 3, I returned to these songs once more. In the background you understand, but as present as the real, word birds still edging their way into my consciousness. (They have shiny too & secrets.) More often than not they know far better than I how this editing process needs to go.
Oh, editing… What fresh hell & all that. What gibbers (thank you dear Juliet Greenwood for this perfect expression of the editing writer’s almost constant state of mind.) What terror as you approach The Bit You Know Will Need A Vast Amount Of Work Because You Kidded Yourself You’d Nailed It When Clearly You Have Done No Such Thing. That said I enjoy editing. For me, in the first instance at any rate, it’s the smell of printed paper, sharpened pencils & a different outlook. Literally – I hard-copy edit in my sitting-room rather than my study, sofa bound & cushioned & very familiar.
Five days ago, having rescued Book 3 from the Dark Drawer after a month of marinating, I began. And when I get fed up with Jenni Murray chatting earnestly about vaginas, when the state of Bob Flowerpot’s compost & Pippa Greenwood’s sweet peas lose their allure, when the news stops being news & sounds more like coffee adverts, I reach for Kate.
And even though I have the volume turned down, some of the words do get through. I pause & listen: What kind of language is this? / I can’t hear a word you’re saying… And yet somewhere I can. In some part of my edit-addled brain, the right words exist. If I try really hard, make sure I have enough tea & chocolate to sustain me through the gibbering, I’ll hear them. My best words are in there somewhere.
Better get on then – see if I can find them.