Yes It Is Hard Sometimes


I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to say, I wonder what I should say. What do you think I should say? Occasionally, when I sit down to write these ten minute essays, I’m really blocked in my ability to put a coherent argument on paper (or screen — some metaphors die hard). Sometimes, I will start something only to have it peter out in a few lines; other times I’ll get myself twisted up in knots (and I just typed ‘nots’ which is either an interesting Freudian slip or just bad typing). Then I’ll erase it and start again — though I always follow the rule of not writing about the same topic. I try to remain true to my original objective of ‘off the top of my head’ writing.

An alternative, of course, is to do what I just did. Start writing that I don’t know what to write and then see where that takes me. I owe this trick to an old friend and writing teacher, Gordon Pengilly, who, when stuck with a scene that would make no progress, would have two characters have a conversation something like this:

Guy: What do you want to do?

Gal: I don’t know, what do you want to do?

Guy: I really don’t know. Maybe we could do this thing over here.

Gal: That large orange…

This is a kind of internal improvisation, letting the two halves of your writing personality chat until they come up with something to say and suddenly the scene takes off and you carry on from there.

So, is that what I wanted to talk about? Not really — I was going to talk about winter and spring and the meaning of Easter in the season of renewal. I wanted to quote Eliot and Shakespeare and say something really profound about how we all need to be reborn on a regular basis. Then I was going to discuss my own journey from career to career and place to place and how I’ve always been more attracted to the start of things than to their completion but then I got bored and started writing something else. You see my problem.

Then I thought, I’d talk about how men are born free but everywhere they are in chains. Which is true as far as it goes. Slavery remains a thing in our world but frankly it’s a cold Saturday and what do I have to say that would make it any better other than people are enslaved so that some other people can make money and some other people (us) can buy cheap tee-shirts or tins of fish. And maybe we should just stop for a minute and think about whether a cheap piece of clothing that you will throw out in a few months is really worth keeping people in chains,.

But who wants to be lectured about charity and kindness? It’s a four day weekend and we’ve all been suffering so much this winter and all we really want is to take it easy and whine about how bad our lives have been or are going to be. So if you want some moral guidance here, you won’t find it. And if you don’t like it, well, you can just crucify me.

And that’s ten minutes (and I really need to drink less coffee on Saturdays — and I really need to stop typing now and….maybe it will be better when I add the links…)


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