Winter rot

January 9, 2013 § 9 Comments

Easy to feel a bit of RS Thomas’s world-weariness as we drag ourselves back to work.  Sixteen tons and what’ve you got.  What I didn’t expect was unproductiveness in my writing.  I’ve found a way, usually, to keep on winding the bucket down and dragging up bits.  Changing the bucket (fiction – lyric – sequence), sifting the muck.  Lately, though, I’ve come up with next to nothing.  Three or four slightly unsatisfactory poems; a story; a page of something else.  This since, what, June?

Something looms large: as I hinted a couple of posts back, World War One is occupying my mind; and I’ve no way in as yet, worried as I am with the vastness of it and the need to make something adequate.  I have an idea – can see faces and names, anyway.  But it still resists.  And the problem is that only when I’m producing one thing can I produce all sorts of other things which in turn take the pressure off the central focus – or sometimes offer a side entrance, or trap door, even.

It makes me understand how I work, this: but it doesn’t help.  Writer’s block: what a bind.  Still, crocuses are coming up in our garden.

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§ 9 Responses to Winter rot

  • Nicky says:

    Horses. The answer is definitely not horses.

  • Brian Lewis says:

    It’s the special difficulty of ‘finding a way in’ to the landscapes of WWI (and, perhaps, a sense of responsibility to narratives visibly and broadly in the public domain) that might account for the present impasse (speculation on my part, of course). One needs to develop a (unique, personal) ‘feel’; the work of building character and narrative must be allowed their pace; the (linear) tendency of narrative works (whether poetry or prose) generally requires that the constituent parts develop in a certain order. Difficult to force or rush, in other words – this doesn’t sound as though it’s likely to be a collection of lyric poems. Having said all that, I’m hopeful that once you’ve found ‘a way in’, you’ll be set on your course. Is the collaboration with Mark Dunn still ongoing?

  • Rob Hindle says:

    Thanks Brian. Yes, the collaboration continues – slightly intermittently, cursed as we are with the demands of the mundane!

  • Chris Jones says:

    There are various stories I’ve heard about how long it took Elizabeth Bishop to write her poem ‘The Moose’. I’ve heard seventeen years – someone recently told me it took over twenty years to complete. I find this consoling. I’m lucky if I write ten poems a year. Most of my friends, I would say, are more ‘productive’ than me in terms of their output. It used to nag away at me, at my sense of being a writer, but not so much any more. My next book (a chapbook) will include 22 poems written over 3 years. I’m pretty happy with the resulting work. If I have any advice to offer – well, a poet I know once signed off an email to me with the words ‘Keep bloody writing!’ – this is something I often think about when I’m three or four months into a poem with no end in sight.

    • Rob Hindle says:

      Heartening words, Chris. The ‘problem’, I think, is that while focusing on a project at an early stage, I’m gestating: the ‘bloody writing’ isn’t happening yet at all (well, I have four slightly trite lines put down as some kind of anchor); and as the subject looms so large I’m finding I can’t divert myself with other writing. It’s a sort of self-defined anxiety of influence.

      Still, something in The Guardian this morning has whet my appetite to attend to the pregnancy. It’ll come.

  • JIM CARUTH says:

    Following Chris’s comments – Larkin I believe averaged about one poem per year.
    I liked a comment from Carol Ann Duffy who said that she sat at her desk every day “prepared” to write (if the magic came)
    It’s a bit like golf I feel – the more you think about it the harder it becomes
    Have you tried Guinness – I find it excellent for releasing the muse.

    Jim

  • Rob Hindle says:

    Do you know, I think this is it: calm down, Hindle! Watch, listen, feel things turning. Something of late-starter anxiety in there (Larkin’s output would turn me into, well, someone like Larkin). Wise words from Duffy, reminding me that sitting down at the end of the day to write isn’t the best approach. Needs must, but it’s no surprise, the crap that stutters out.

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