Wednesday on my mind

It is the middle of the week, and I am aware that I have been neglecting my fiction writing. The workshop with Patrick Gale last weekend was fantastic, but it left me a little scarred - ever so slightly - as the final exercise was to get into the head of someone we had wronged, or been wronged by. I chose to write this exercise in the first person, and it concerned someone I love who I had disappointed. It knocked the wind out of my sails, so to speak.

So I haven’t had much energy in the ensuing days for revisions to Strip Poker, which currently sits in a draft state over at Unfction, my short fiction clearing house. I want to recut the story, and I will get around to it - I want to introduce an element of tension and suspense into a story that is currently more like the slow-motion unfolding of a nightmare. The other day I had the chance to speak to someone who had actually read the story (a rare enough individual!), and they described it as ‘very dark’. This surprised me, as I thought it was blackly humorous more than dark. However, I am more than willing to let it be interpreted any way that people wish.

If you feel so inclined, have a read of the story in its current state; it will soon be updated to read quite differently. I will keep both versions up on Unfiction so they can be compared, just for fun.

Apart from that the week holds the promise of more writing, some of which I plan to do in a cafe the identity of which is to be determined. This week I am doing another freelance article reviewing a fancy house renovation for Houses Magazine, one of the Architecture Media stable of journals. The house is located on the delightful Saint Vincents Place in Albert Park here in Melbourne, an address I might aspire to if I thought I was, at any point in the future, going to be in the market for a $5 million house. (No chance!) Once the story is published I will thrown the link up here.


Six hundred and eight words

I have spent a couple of days working in several of my usual haunts, and I have a short piece of fiction to show for it. It is very short: 608 words, to be precise. It's a story about a betting streak gone horribly wrong, called 'Strip Poker'. You can find it in my fiction clearing house, using the Unfiction link at the top of this page. It won't take you very long to read! I am prepared to share the story in draft form, which is very brave of me; I have got it to the point where it now needs to be 'rested', and I will return to it in the future and no doubt rework it. It needs more work, but I need to ignore it for a month or so before polishing it up.

While I tried a couple of different venues yesterday and then again today, I finished the story at a personal favourite, the Federal Coffee Palace, at the Melbourne GPO. For those of my readers who don't know Melbourne, the GPO is a historic sandstone building that used to be the General Post Office. It is located right in the heart of the city, and has a picturesque colonnade along the street, beneath which is a café called the Federal Coffee Palace. The setting is very European. I like writing at this venue because you can stay for several hours and they don't seem to mind; they have a lot of seats spread out beneath the arches, and they are rarely all full. The coffee is good enough, too.

Not overstaying your welcome is an essential part of the café writing experience. One needs to pay one's way, and not take up a table that might otherwise be earning the café patronage. This is incentive to buy coffee, as if I need incentive. This is also why I gravitate to venues that have a healthy scattering of spare tables at any given time. I would never linger in a venue when people are waiting for a table.

Having finished a draft, albeit of such modest dimensions, I think I will now wander off into the city and get on with the business of a lazy weekend. Happy writing, folks.


Why I write: a flawed explanation

I write because I love the angle of the wall as it meets the ceiling, just over there near the head of that black timber window. I write because I love the cold, flat grey light of winter, the stillness of those ugly trees in the chilly midday air, and the way Melbourne’s footpaths change from grey to black under a light fall of rain. I write because I love a messy house, because I hate housework, because I hate going to the supermarket on a Saturday and because I want to exist long after I have turned to dust. I write to remember that part of my day is worthwhile, even while some gets wasted; I write to remember to take it easy, to take it long and low and to draw out the strokes of my lazy afternoons.

I write despite having no ideas about what to write. Having an idea for a story is like having an idea for a poem: it doesn't lead anywhere in itself. It is merely the conscious mind attempting to take control and set the agenda. It is not productive. I seem to get this with poetry more than prose: I begin a poem because I find the fragment of a poem in my mouth and on my tongue, a stray association of words that has sprouted like a seed from my subconscious. I should try this more with prose.

Story ideas are a red herring. They miss the point. They are ‘about’ and not ‘of’. They are desperate attempts to herd fish when the real game is a shotgun blast in a salad bowl. If an idea has value it will emerge from the seeds of free writing. If it does not it will not: something else will emerge instead. Something strange that will take root and grow out of the fertile soil of steady production. And production is everything: to write, and to write and to write.

So I write through interruptions, through rain storms, and through the beats and chimes of this drawn out Friday afternoon. I write through application and concentration. I write through the eye of a needle, threading each sentence through the eye just one word thick, one word at a time. Sometimes I write through a fine, white gauze I call Mental Muslin.

I write imperfectly and impatiently. I write enough for now, and then some more for later. I write up and I write down, and I am working on writing sideways as well, but I am not there yet. 

I am therefore I write, but the am came first.