Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Finishing lines

Today, I have a hangover and no guilt.  Yesterday, I wrote a scene and quite unexpectedly, realised that was it: that was where this story was going to be left.  The first draft is finished.

I should be quite pleased with myself.  Intuition tells me I should even be slightly ecstatic, but I'm neither of those things.  What I am, actually is:
  1. Aware of just how many holes there are in this draft: characters who have changed in the writing, sacred objects that have been unused, others that have appeared from nowhere, motivations missing and backstories lacking.
  2. Ever so slightly (all right, that's a downright lie...make it completely and utterly) grateful that today and tomorrow, I don't have to get up to wrestle with J. and M. and D.  That they can be best served by parking them in a drawer for a month, and thinking about something else.
  3. Desperate to pick up all the strands of my life I've dropped during the writing of this, and
  4. So this isn't wholly negative, I'm also confident that this is something I can pick up again after the school holidays, and more crucially - I also reasonably confident that I'm going to want to.  Just because the writing doesn't sizzle and crackle off every one of these damn pages right now doesn't mean it doesn't, or won't.  Familiarity breeds contempt, and sometimes it's hard to see the good in my own work when I've been staring at it for this long.  Logic tells me there's some good stuff in here.
So right now I've backed everything up to every flash drive I own, and an internet space too.  Confident in the knowledge I'm not about to lose it, I intend to forget about Dark Milk completely for the next two months.  And although large parts of me are fed up to the back teeth with it, there's another deeper part of me that can't wait until the first day the kids go back to school, the kettle boils, and I slip back up to the sleep-out.  I know that tired old threads will seem brand new, and the game begins again.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Bumping along the bottom...

I've recently been debating - although not very seriously - whether or not to sell the bus, mostly because of the speed with which my offspring are growing.  With four and a small dog up, all required camping gear; with the heavy, german-made (and therefore heavy, like their food) camping interior that weighs more than I do, plus the antique dresser of indispensable camping accessories which my wife insists on while wondering aloud how I ever managed without them, it's safe to say that the performance isn't exactly sparkling.  After all, it only made 66 hp when it was new and even if it's still churning that out - well, you can see why it struggles, and that's before you even get to the fun part, of four people actually trying to live out of one of these things.

This weekend has reaffirmed the faith and squashed any such nascent thoughts.  I packed Jay in and set off for some father-and-son time down south, sans mother, sister, or surfboards.  It's easy to forget that the bus has always been in his life - we've always just gone off.   Spending time with Jay in the bus this weekend, I watched him unwind and chill out, and forget the stresses of being nine.

Between Kaka point and the Nuggets, finding sea lions to hassle.
Purakanui falls.  Pretty, eh?
Papatowai beach.  Spooky, cold, shadows in the water.  Can I not surf here?
Catlins rain forest.  Smells even better than a similarly themed toilet freshener.
Pounawea sunrise.  I take pictures while Jay gets to do star jumps.  Character building, see...

So we did bus things: we explored, we tramped, we read.  We forgot about modern things like computers, fuel injection, and overtaking.  I drank beer, he ate his own body weight in ice cream.  Complete strangers wander up and talk about the bus, and then other things.  I can fix any problem short of major catastrophe with my own brain and hands and the tools I carry, and problems are well - expected.  That big front window displays the whole world in glorious panorama, accompanied by the warm bus-sell that only buses have.  And we finished the trip, as usual, with the bus running better at the end than it had at the beginning -  like the bus enjoys it too, and doesn't want to be consigned back to a nice warm garage.  Travelling by bus is a journey, in the truest sense of the word.

And so, the Catlins duly scoped out for further adventuring, we returned home in glorious, faintly dirty triumph, which is of course exactly how fathers and sons should return home.  Tales to tell, hot baths to sit in, more beer to be drunk. 

Bus adventures rock, and so do the Catlins.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Delays, denouements, and down-time.

After a few weeks in which I've really hit my straps - there hasn't been a single day in recent memory when I haven't hit my target of 1250 words for the day - I've eased rather than ground to a halt.  This, for once, is not for any bad reason, but rather because the myriad tasks that I've pushed to one side to make time and head-space to write has, by the looks of it, all gathered together in a quiet corner of the pub, had a group moan - probably fuelled with cheap Lambrusco, I think - about how badly I've been treatin' them, and set out on a jilted crusade, demanding to be dealt with.  And naturally, there's a time to fight alcoholic ex's from the battlements, metaphorical axe in hand in the shape of a mobile phone and the number of a good lawyer, and there's a a time to surrender and be breathed on. 

My capitulation comes because the noise of battle threatens to distract me from where I am, which is right in the middle of the story's climactic scene.  Not only do I want to devote this part my full attention, but it also feels as though the simple achievement of arriving here at this point now gives this child of mine a certain invulnerability.  If I hide it under the duvet and put the lights on a timer, no-one'll know if I've nipped down the pub for a swift half while leaving the kids at home.  Do they do Lambrusco in pints?  Outside Malaga, I mean - obviously.

You would be correct in thinking that part of me at least, is rather pleased with another part of me.  Pride and falls and all that: this feels like a small step on a longish ladder, but still - a definite one.  So I've decided to take Jay out of school on Friday and head off down south in the bus, loaded up with cameras, frisbees and fishing rods, just me and him, for a boy's weekend of doing nothing much in the Catlins. (Such has been the run of surf lately that leaving the boards at home is looking like it might be something of a blessed relief: my shoulders feel old.)

It seems much longer ago than the few months it actually has been that my first planned trip to the Catlins got frustrated.  I'm not sure if I shared the exact reasons for my canning it back then, but suffice to say I won't be watching Bill and Ted and then like, totally melvining my daughter at 7 o'clock in the morning.  Explaining to the osteopath exactly what I was doing when I put my back out has never been harder and I'll be eternally grateful that she treated me rather than doing as any sane person would have done - picking up the phone and calling for security.  

I can, in fact, only spot one small fly upon the horizon: the title of this blog.  I went for a surf this morning in my 4/3 and I was uncomfortably hot.  The summer rubber is coming out again (phnaar) - a day that for a while there, I thought I'd never see again.

Life is really quite good.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Flying down the lines

I set myself a deadline to finish the first draft of this story:  I want something in my hand that covers the whole thing by the time the kids break up for the southern summer.  I phrase it like that because there'll be no way that what's in my hand then will bear too much resemblance to the finished product.  There's just too many areas that I've flagged for thinking about later, but which somehow I can't consider now while getting this story out.  It's like a long, long vomit in a new bathroom; and the builder can't hand it over to the customer until he wipes up the mess. 

You want literary metaphors, I give them to you.

So this is why my blogging has been on the slow side: the slow, grunting birth of this story (imagine that however the darkest recesses of your mind see fit) and, incidentally, some quite decent surf.  I tell myself it's ying and yang - I can't create while the shoulder muscles twitch to paddle, the body is the window to the mind, and a thousand other similar platitudes.  It seems to be working for me right now, so I'm more than content to keep fooling myself - and possibly you - that a good surf, taken whenever it's on offer,  is almost an essential part of a writer's day.  If you surf, and if you write, I urge you to do everything you can to perpetuate this.  Even if you don't, what's it going to cost you to whisper it?