Notes From the Wasteland No. 45 ‘A Message From Outer Space’

Years ago, in a separate but still parallel life, I published an academic book on a short cycle of British films from the 1950s and 1960s. The book was a re-calibration of my doctoral thesis.

bft

The British New Wave has floated through space ever since like some kind of unmanned craft.

It occasionally makes contact with sentient lifeforms, crash-landing now and again on a university reading list.

Or orbiting on the every edges of some form of intellectual discourse.

But it spends most of its time merrily moving closer and closer towards the extreme outer edges of space.

On its way somewhere but never getting anywhere significant.

It never quite resulted in that dream book tour of the US that I imagined.

Nonetheless it is out there in deep space and will always be.

A permanent reminder of something.

Or nothing. Until very recently.

A strange transmission was beamed back from the furthest reaches of the darkness.

My bank wrote to tell me that a royalty payment had been received from the book’s publishers. Naturally, after years of radio silence, I was thrilled to hear such a message. However, I was more thrilled by the happenstantial nature of the payment itself. The amount I received was very much almost exactly identical to the amount I needed to purchase a swathe of unique numeric commercial book identifiers.

Within ten pounds sterling. It seemed too good a thing not to use the monies received from one book as seed money for my next set of books.

I like to think that even as I type, The British New Wave has gone back into deep space exploration again. On a new course bound for anywhere. Set to make contact once again at some random point in the future intersection of space and time.

But not before I have gotten used to the radio silence.

Again.

Notes From the Wasteland No. 43 ‘Two Writing Tips for Starting the Week’

It is the start of another new week. The first before the next and the one after the last. It is time to reset and start again. Last week is gone now. It went well or not so well, depending on your point of view. But that doesn’t matter because this week is this week and that means a lot. It means that we can focus all our energy on the week ahead. We can clearly the days as they lay before and calculate, in our minds at least, what we need to do each day to make this week the week we want it to be.

The first thing I like to do is to sweep all my current projects and evaluate which ones need my attention. I’m sure like me you have more than one fish currently frying and so I like to start by seeing where I am and where I want to be. Some are more time sensitive than others and so those must obviously be correctly assessed but I also like to think that having more than one thing on the go at the same time helps to keep me fresh and active.

Is this what you do?

Secondly, I like to keep my drip tank refreshed. This is a document where I like to keep all my thoughts and plans and lines and words and titles and anything else I think it is useful to record. Some of these things come to nothing but others develop a life of their own and make it out of the drip tank and onto their own page. Book One of the VIRO series started life as a paragraph I found in the drip tank. I knew I had written it (obviously) but I didn’t remember writing it but there was something about the paragraph that encouraged me and so I took the plunge and set about writing VIRO. Four books and one hundred and twenty thousand words later, I’m glad I took the time to dredge the drip tank. VIRO has hovered around the top of an Amazon chart almost since the day it was published and spent a considerable amount of time firmly lodged at Number One. If you are curious and want to know more then why not click the book cover image beside this post and get your free ebook today?

I’d be very interested to know what you think?

Notes From the Wasteland No. 39 ‘How Many Words Have You Written Today?’

I’ve written twenty four words today. Twenty four. 24. They’re fine words and I will probably keep them but twenty four words isn’t much. At least, it doesn’t feel like much. The most words I have ever written for a single project was ninety-six thousand words. Ninety-six thousand. 96,000. That was for my doctoral dissertation. While I was working on that project I set myself a goal of writing two hundred words a day. This was a modest target and one that really helped me manage to complete the dissertation. Some days I wrote far more than two hundred words, far far more. Other days I wrote less than two hundred words but having a modest daily target allowed me to develop some kind of resilience when it came to writing. I needed this because the whole experience was so challenging that without some form of safety rail I would have crashed over the edge.

There were days when I wished I had never started, when everything around me was falling apart and all I had was these words. It was hard but the daily challenge at least gave me a way to think about something else, even if only for a little while. And so over time the small totals became bigger totals and then one day there was no need for any more of those particular words, I had written enough of them. And that was a strange feeling, very strange. For a while I missed the project hanging over my head like a malignant planet, I was used to always seeing it on my horizon but finally it disappeared from view.

Why am I telling you all this?

I suppose I learned many things through the whole doctoral process and there are many key words that I might reduce the whole process down to – resilience, determination, versatility, etc – but I think, ultimately, the key thing I learned from the whole thing is simply that writing twenty four words is actually pretty good going and if I wait patiently and stay kind to myself there might be some more words to follow.

I’ll let you all know when they arrive.

Notes From the Wasteland No. 38 ‘What Do You Do When the Deadline is Looming?’

There is a deadline looming. It is the only thing you can see ahead of you. The deadline has been there for a while but like all of us you chose to let it loom for a while. But the deadline has crept closer and closer and now is almost upon you. It. Is. Soon. But you don’t feel like writing.

What do you do?

When this happens, I write. Something. Anything. Sometimes not even the thing itself but something else, something small, something quick, something that I have not been thinking about, worrying about. This calms me. It helps me focus. It reminds me that I can do things.

I can find words.

I do find words.

I will find words.

It also helps me be kinder to myself. If my words here are flowing then, I think, my words there will flow too. And so by doing this I guess I write around the problem and by doing so swing back around to the project and its deadline. This works for me. It has to work for me because I still have that deadline looming ahead of me and though writing something else might seem a bit like avoidance I do actually find it galvanises my efforts and lets me complete the task at hand.

Admittedly, this is a risky thing to do and will likely end in missing a deadline sometimes, like it has done before. It certainly isn’t surefire and, as such, is not something I would necessarily recommend to other people. However, it does work for me most of the time and that’s about as much as I manage when it comes to the process; there is just so much about all this that can’t be regimented or forced – the best that I can do is manage some parts of the process.

What about you?

Notes From the Wasteland No. 36 ‘What Does It Feel Like When You Write?’

I get a rush when I write. When I’m right in the zone and words are flowing and staying connected and forming pathways for my ideas to develop and grow. When it feels like this I realise that the simple of act of putting letters next to each other, one at a time, making words and paragraphs, filling pages, telling stories and, hopefully, sometimes, reaching other people, realising that words are also bridges that connect disparate people across scattered times and spaces and places, is what I only want to do. That’s when I get a rush.

Do you feel like this sometimes?

I don’t get a rush when I write. When I’m not in the zone and my words are not flowing and they don’t stay connected and refuse to form pathways for my ideas to prevent them from developing and growing. And when it feels like this I still realise that the simple of act of putting letters next to each other, one at a time, making words and paragraphs, filling pages, telling stories and, hopefully, sometimes, reaching other people, realising that words are also bridges that connect disparate people across scattered times and spaces and places, is what I only want to do. Always.

Do you feel like this sometimes?

Notes From the Wasteland No. 34 ‘What Does your Handwriting Look Like?’

I type all day. Every day. Each and every day. Pressing the keys and forming the words, misforming them sometimes, getting them wrong; typos, misplacings, putting my F before my O instead of the other way round. I guess I end up deleting more words, and parts of words, than I actually keep. I just can’t seem to type a sentence without it containing an error. Perhaps my fingers and thumbs have got bigger over time as keyboards have got smaller? But given all of this, and the frustration that it seems to cause, I never ever write anything out in longhand.

Longhand?

The word sounds so old-fashioned to me. The thing I spent years at school learning how to perfect, little knowing that all that hard work would be to defeated, not by aching hands, or leaky fountain pens, or blunt pencils, thin paper, or any of those other reasons why longhand doesn’t always work. But simply because I type all day. Every day.

Cards and Letters.

I do like to write birthday cards by hand but my handwriting is so big that by the time I’ve written a couple of sentences there is no room left inside the card. I used to write letters to people, people I loved, people I thought enjoyed receiving these letters. People who did enjoy receiving these letters. But I don’t any more. I just don’t. Perhaps I should again? Perhaps I will again?

I’d love to see the mess of my handwriting as it flows carelessly across a page. Being left-handed, I have always tended to smudge as I write, my hand following my words like a fleshy blotter, smudging and smearing, blurring the ink as I try hard to find the words to say as I want to say them because longhand is also a spontaneous thrill as you hope that the words you want to write look like the words they are meant to be so that whoever receives your letter can actually read what you’ve written.

I miss the feel of that particular thrill.

What does your handwriting look like?

Notes From the Wasteland No. 33 ‘Did You Ever Have a Typewriter?’

Do you worry when the page is blank in front of you? Do you feel an anxiety, an expectation? A fear that you just won’t fill it? A fear that you just can’t fill it? That you never will fill it? Just fear?

F.E.A.R.

I know I do. Like now when I started this post. I stared at the page. The page stared back at me. We know each other very well. We are truly beyond intimate now. The page knows my every thought. My every dream. Well-shared and long-shared. The page has been with me on every step of my writing journey. Not the page on this laptop. The page on every screen I have ever written on.

If I imagined the combined area of every page on every screen I have ever written on it would probably be enough to wallpaper the world, sheet by sheet by sheet. That would be some story in itself.

When I first started writing I had a typewriter and used to love the sound of the keys as they crashed against the paper. I adored the percussive smash as I pulled the carriage return across once more. The ripping sound as I turned the roller knob to line up the paper. The ink on my fingers. The ink on the page. The press of the letters. The indents and under-types. All of it. And at least with the typewriter the paper I wrote on could be thrown away, or stored somewhere, and left to yellow. To me, it made the process of writing more easily detachable. I could type a page, put that page away and then choose not to look at it again, if that was what I wanted. It made the process more discrete.

But I can honestly say that I don’t miss that typewriter. I think if I had it now I would find all the parts and processes far too mechanical, too fiddly, too easily distracting; simply too much. The simple act of doing things one sheet at a time would be too slow now, too demanding, there would be too much emphasis on the process and not enough emphasis on the act itself. I worry that my words would get lost in the execution of the act of writing itself.

Don’t get me started on the Tipp-Ex.