Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Fresh tracks...

There's an old saying, which I'll paraphrase as "the body is the window to the mind", from which comes the oldest writing "do" in the book (so to speak): show, don't tell.

Right now, this window's feeling pretty broken after the first skiing of winter.  I'm certainly not in any state to pick up what I was working on - it's written in a way that demands my full engagement.  So instead, I'm casually jotting down in a notebook exactly how I do feel, for next time I have to show  my reader an utterly exhausted shell of a man who, on this evidence, is just about to have his skiing arse well and truly handed to him by an upstart daughter.  

It's a curious mixture of physical pain, mental exhaustion, definitely a sense of encroaching age, all tinged with parental pride.

I'm sure that I'll get something else out of looking back at being in that environment on such a wonderful couple of days, too, but in the meantime I'm off to finish my notes, do some yoga, and just maybe - just maybe - get enough fitness to delay the arse-kicking for another trip at least.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Second drafts and letting go

I'm really enjoying revisiting this novel-in-waiting after the thriller stalled.  Partly, that's because it's such a completely different type of book:  thrillers are all about plot and tight, sparse language.  If your prose interferes with the page flipping, inhibits the pure story-telling, then that's bad.   The story I'm working on at the moment is much more about the carnival of language, as my Creative Writing lecturer at Massey puts it. 

An exercise I've always enjoyed is trying to write like  foreign languages translate into English. Translated Spanish and Italian novels , for example, have this wonderful quality to them - I can't really describe it as anything other than a lilting music.  Books written in or by Indians - whether in another language first or in Indian - have their own music too, a curious mixture of sub-continental flare and a tight, correct use of words.  (I wonder what a linguist would say about that: if British Colonialism is the common ancestor of modern Indian English and English English (for want of a better word), why is it that the Indian version seems to be so much more correct?  Has the presence of other languages in the country slowed the evolution of the language, or do they contribute in some other way to keeping it more correct?  I digress, wildly.) 

This story's set in Italy, rooted in a time at the end of the first world war.  So it's an interesting exercise trying to find the right voice - there's not only geographical considerations, but historical ones too, and it contributes to me using language in a way that I, at least, am loving, which in and of itself drives the story in ways I hadn't planned or foreseen.

Which does present its own set of problems.  Because I'm so proud, really, of some of the writing I've done, it makes the whole business of re-envisaging areas in the story rather bereaving.  This side of editing is one I suspect many novelist struggle with:  after all, carrying out a complete revision of a short story is one thing, but investing the time and energy to completely chuck out a whole novel?  The thought of it would make a strong man weep.

Maybe I'll get to the end with a better understanding of what's going on with this, look back and decide to chuck it all out and start again. What's fun though, is letting the language alone be the driver.

Oddly enough, I'm finding that working on this is also rekindling my confidence to go back and tackle the thriller again when it's time. I can't help but feel that maybe at the end of the day, they're all parts of the same puzzle.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The drought breaks!

Finally, I got in.  It's been a beautiful morning, the kind that makes you want to take a camera with you everywhere you go, right from the first pink rays of dawn scraping the tops of the hills around the harbour.  I drove up and over them to go check the surf.  Fantastic views on a golden morning.

The small swell has shifted direction slightly from yesterday, and had too much south in it to wrap into murderers.  I had a tantalising glimpse of lines hitting the outside bar, but it was asking too much for them to bend all the way around and into the bay.

So off I went to Aramoana, where I had it all to myself.  This wasn't entirely surprising - it's not like it was all-time, or even average.  It was crumbly chest-high beach break on a tide that was rising when it needed to be dropping, with the first breaths of a cross-shore beginning to blow.  But it was very user-friendly, in the world of recuperating, recently freaked-out surfers getting used to the cold again.  I left the gloves in the car, preferring cold hands and feelin' it to warm alienation.  I was too slow to my feet the first few, getting caught behind the section.  Then I locked (or lucked) into a punchy left that I could race nearly all the way in, where a little end ramp begged to be hit.  Like a punch-drunk old heavyweight with a speed ball, I kind of remembered what to do.  It doesn't matter that it was probably one of the ugliest turns I've done in years:  I landed it, and the morning was complete.  I got out.  I would have been rude to ask for more.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Dangerously close...

The cold water awaits.  My injury is now at the point where I can contemplate getting back in there - in fact, I've tried once.  I paddled out down the coast, thinking here was a nice, if a little junky, two foot day to ease myself into it, when in fact it was probably pushing five and with a strong side-shore sweep. I haven't worn hood and gloves for years, and I don't mind admitting I got totally freaked: way heavier that I was expecting, the eerie silence of a neoprene enclosed head and, in my gloves, feeling too far removed from what was going on around me, and ever conscious of my back.  I lasted about ten minutes, and never caught a wave.  But after a month out you expect the first few to be crap, so I wasn't too fussed.  On the upside, I was pretty snuggly warm in my polypro hoodie - if I pick and choose my days through winter, I should manage to keep the motivation up.  The Osteo has got me doing core exercises for all I'm worth, so hopefully some of the benefits of that carry over into my surfing, if I remember what that is and how to do it.

The bus is almost back together, but I'm none the wiser at the moment as to what exactly is causing that CV noise, because it isn't the CV's.  I took them apart, inspected them minutely, and there's no real discernible wear at all - not bad for joints made in August '72, as these are stamped.  Ah, the days before built-in obsolescence, when they used real metal and real rubber, and built things to last.  I'd be interested to figure out exactly what the bus's carbon footprint will have been over its lifetime - cradle to grave - build costs and recycling costs chucked in.  Even though the fuel economy isn't exactly fabulous, I bet the figure's still better than if I behaved as the auto industry would have me and recycled my car every five years.

The writing is progressing in fits and starts. I can see no finished story at the moment, rather I seem to be putting together discrete, loosely-related sets of chapters that will, eventually, find a common tie - something to bind the whole together in one recognisable story.  It's another way to work amongst this infinite variety of stories.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Something to share...

I should really get this blog back towards my writing and away from my back.  And if I could translate "life" for "blog" too, that would be good.  I thought about heading out for a wave today, but it's just - ooh, 5% away from being there.  Maybe tomorrow - this last bit of waiting seems to be the worst of the lot.

Anyway, enough.  I thought I'd share some writing today,  and actually prove I'm doing some.  Here's a revision of a short story I've been working on off and on for a while - please feel free to download - you can go to Scribd by clicking on the embedded page and take it from there.

Dog and Wife

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Slowing down and waiting

I seem to be waiting a lot this week:  waiting for my back to get better, waiting for bus parts to arrive, and waiting for clearer decks all round so I can get on with some writing, and on a more positive note, waiting for the NZ ski season to really get underway.

My back is improving slowly, although I'm still unsure as to whether the last episode marked a permanent shift in the severity of the spondy - it certainly seems to be more prominent at the moment, but that could also be because the spine's still being pulled out of alignment by muscles in low-grade spasm protecting the injury.  I'm still keeping up the cycling and yoga, though - bizarrely - as I get fitter, the cycling seems to be more a hindrance than a help.  My current theory is that as I get fitter I tend to spin the pedals faster, so using my hamstrings more, which then shorten and place tension on my spine.  Maybe tomorrow I'll just go for a steep uphill grind and see where that gets me.    I still feel a way away from surfing, although I seem to have arrived at a certain level of sanguinity (?) about the whole thing now, as I'm managing to stay fit (ish) in other ways. 

The bus has decided that 107,000 miles is as far as at least one and possibly two of the original CV joints are going to go.  Driving under load the clanking resembles nothing so much as a knight in armour out for a morning jog.  So I've got that particular delight awaiting for me, just as soon as the parts get here.  Doubtless I'll find something else to do while I'm under there too, although I'm shocked that, just for once at WOF time, I don't have a sidelight bulb out. 

I'm still enjoying working my way through this previous half-finished novel I talked about last time.  It's a nice retreat after the thriller, not least because it doesn't have the same restrictions on prose that the thriller genre does - I can walk round the whole carnival of language and take it all in if I want.  It's fun, challenging, and going well. 

And last, Coronet Peak opened this weekend.  I'm wearing my ski boots of an evening to bed them in, gazing longingly at my K2's in the corner.  The kids are nearly fully equipped - when will they stop growing? - more snow is forecast for this week, and I reckon the back will stand up well to a couple of days skiing as long as I don't push it too hard, and the chances of getting the opportunity to do that with an 8 year old in tow are slim.  Bring it on!