on not getting very far

When my elder son was quite small and coming down from one of his alarming tantrums, he would sometimes say by way of explanation: I'm a bit tie-red. He meant tired but that's how he said it, tie-red. The other one, if we were out walking and he started to fall behind, was: I can't get very far. Both said in a forlorn sort of voice. I'm thinking of those remarks because that's how I am today: a bit tie-red and unable to get very far. Although it's probably a contributing factor, Sunday's folly is not the real reason for this. It's more of a deep mental weariness and it came over me this morning just after I finished the first draft of Zone of the Marvellous. It's a very ragged first draft, especially in the later stages, and it's about 10,000 words too long but because it is now one whole thing I can begin to forget about it for a while. I don't usually work on more than one book at a time but this past twelve months or so circumstances have dictated otherwise. My book on Ludwig Becker, retitled The Supply Party, has also been through two and a half drafts over this period. That one is much more finished, there's just the final edit to do now, which I'll begin whenever the editor contacts me - this or next month probably. I don't think I want to be in this position again, it's too hard. There were days when I literally didn't know to which book the sentence(s) in my head belonged. Especially lately. And lately too I've had a constant and disturbing sense that some of these sentences have failed to make the transition from mental event to linguistic expression. Lost forever perhaps. I don't work much from notes because too often I've found writing the note neutered the thought; so I have to keep things somehow alive in memory or mind until they can be written down properly. That may be where the mental tiredness comes from, I don't know. It is anyway a mysterious process, the summoning of the long term concentration required to write a book. As if some subterranean stream, an underground river, runs below all other daily and nightly activities and surfaces only during the actual act of writing. I suppose you could say three concurrent books, since the shorter pieces that make up The Evolution of Mirrors were mostly set down during the same period: but that book is different, it was written in a spirit of free-wheeling free association at the end of whatever day it was when I could let my mind roll away in any direction it wanted to go and as such was more purely pleasurable to do than the morning's task of grinding out 1000 words or whatever. And while on that line, today I learned a new word: Hypnogeography, which perfectly describes some of the dream excursions in TEOM. And one other thing: I don't know why Werner Droescher's name should have come to mind the way it did two nights ago but I'm very glad it happened: the inadvertent recovery of a piece of the past I had completely forgotten and really did not know that much about. Perhaps I have gone further than I know.


artandmylife said...

I am suddenly thankful that I have 3 small excuses for not being able to sustain "long term concentration". Although some days I think we aren't meant to get very far.

Elisabeth said...

Good grief, Martin. I've just read Sunday's Folly and I'm amazed by your stamina. Not only can you tolerate the demands of one of those awful marathons, physically, lose sight of your sons, then find them again but here you are producing endless words on line. On top of that you've got three publishable books on the go. I've ordered the Mirrors. I can't believe that you can go on as you do. All credit to you.

Martin Edmond said...

put it down to a wasted youth - & too much time on my hands now I'm old.