Monday, 2 April 2012

Talking about Writing

Julian Fox is writing a book. I think he’s intending it to be a novel when it’s finished. Not that I want to publicize it for him. All I want to say here is that we met the other day in Brockwell Park and talked about our respective works of fiction. His is called So Here I am in the Between Land. Mine is provisionally called A Boy Falling Out of the Sky, although I’m thinking of changing that to Human Waste because there’s an awful lot of shit in it. We sat there on a bench and I gave him my reactions to his blog ( or something like that, though probably not that because it hasn’t turned itself into a link as soon as I’ve written it). He’s posting bits of his writing there, though I am not sure why. He’s disabled the functions that allow people to give feedback. Perhaps just putting his writing up publicly like that is a challenge to himself. He’s set himself some goals, a certain number of posts per week, and has to achieve them. We talked about our different meta-fictional techniques and my worry that they’re merely indicators of our literary ineptitude. Julian keeps on saying he’s not a proper writer. I have my fictional narrator comment on his own writing, how he’s anxious, for example, that the reader will be getting fed up with all his long-winded paragraphs, and how he’s going to turn his divagations into more palatable dinner party scenes in flats in Camberwell instead.

I am reluctant, I told Julian, to post any of my writing on the web, or even to give readings from it. A novel, I said, can only be properly judged in its entirety. You can’t judge it by its extracts. He sort of agreed with me. In fact that’s probably what he said because that’s the way he talks: ‘I sort of agree with you.’ We both expressed our cynicism about the ‘scratch’ process, currently fashionable in the theatre world, while admitting that it’s quite pleasurable, as well as heartening, to receive the occasional pat on the back when the work is well-received. I have to say I feel slightly envious of Julian. He’s developed a distinct persona over the last ten years. It’s there again in his writing. Even if he changes the narrative voice from first person to third and calls the character Stephen you can tell it’s really him talking about his life and what’s happening to him and how he feels. I’m probably deluded in thinking I’m doing something different, because when I look back over my efforts I often end up crying ‘It’s just me, me, me.’

I’ve thought about posting some material on this blog, but what would be the point? No one, apart from, occasionally, Julian Fox and the maverick theatre maker Chris Goode, oh and also very occasionally my friend and flatmate Patrizia Paolini, ever looks at the thing. For the last two weeks I’ve been suffering from writer’s block. I’ve developed an irritating habit of looking back and editing. When I get bored with moving words around and cutting them I’ll surf the internet and read interviews with writers and get depressed. Then I’ll download extracts from other people’s novels, read them and become positively suicidal. In the end I console myself by telling myself that this is what most writers do. Today, the second day of April 2012, I have been editing a passage to death. I’ve toyed around with it so much that it no longer resembles the original at all and I hardly recognize it as a product of my imagination. I thought I’d share it with you. Which is something I’m probably going to regret. Here it is. I should just tell you that the story is narrated by a successful television comedy actor called Philip Harding who is addicted to the internet.

Actually, I've decided there's no point in posting extracts from a novel in progress.