The weather is glorious. Clear blue skies & a bird song soundtrack, tempting me out of doors. Not a day passes when I don’t feel grateful to live in a small rural town with access to the countryside. Not that I’m walking in all my favourite places. Staying safe never felt more crucial.
In these locked down days you’d be forgiven for thinking a vast number of words have been written. However, like my physical rambling, the writing mileage has been abbreviated too. Although I’m showing up most days, my train of thought has been interrupted. Instead of pushing on with the story, I’m obsessing over the first few chapters, rearranging the same words on the page, indulging my inner perfectionist. And when I’m not doing that, I’m veering off into the nineteen-fifties, researching village school education, chapel graveyards & the business of bees. (Did I not tell you? There are bees in this book. Magical ones…)
In this new, unreal reality the best I can do is validate the way I’m currently working because it’s better than not working at all.
It’s my habit to open Virginia Woolf’s A Writer’s Diary each morning, at random. This, from 1935 was yesterday’s offering.
A very fine skyblue day, my windows completely filled with blue for a wonder … And I have been writing and writing and rewriting the scene … What I want to do is reduce it all so that each sentence, though perfectly natural dialogue, has a great pressure of meaning behind it.
There’s only so much fine-tuning I can do though, before I shall be forced to crack on. It’s not as if I don’t know what comes next. I know a good deal about this story. My central character is smart & wild. The aforementioned bees talk to her. And this book has chapter headings which I have never written before although I’ve always fancied the idea. It has a title too, which pleases me hugely. A title I’m happy with connects me to the book; makes it feel more substantial, even though, in terms of word count, it isn’t.
Time enough to worry about how many words. What matters is there are some. And in these extended alone times, I ‘need not’ – to quote Mrs Woolf again – ‘think of anybody.’ I can be myself, by myself…
For now she need not think of anybody. She could be herself, by herself. And that was what now she often felt the need of – to think; well not even to think. To be silent; to be alone. All the being and the doing, expansive, glittering, vocal, evaporated; and one shrunk, with a sense of solemnity, to being oneself, a wedge-shaped core of darkness, something invisible to others … and this self having shed its attachments was free for the strangest adventures.
From: To the Lighthouse
The strangest adventure indeed. If I only scribble half a page of notes each day, or rewrite the opening to chapter whatever seventy-billion times, I’m doing something.
Being present, chewing the end of my pencil, staring out into the skyblue day…