They say that full Moons and the periods that lead to them are the moments of heightened emotion and restlessness. Indeed, despite a heavy rain outside, I feel like I’d like to catch a train somewhere. Of course, “to catch a train somewhere” also entails taking a camera – but how much are you really going to snap, if it’s raining cats and dogs? I’m also waiting for a delivery from Graze – thanks to the amazing generosity of Paul who shared a promotional code and waxed lyrical about how good the products were. But now I have to wonder, of course, at what point during the day I am going to lay my hands on this natural goodness. On another hand, I’d feel immensely deprived, if the door bell woke me up at 6am. Yet if it woke me up at 7.40, I wouldn’t mind because I was already awake then.
So, as you can gather, I’m anything but certain about what to do, and the fact that I took a couple of days of holiday at work doesn’t help make things clearer. I also know that I need to buy a book for a good friend, although I could possibly do that in any Waterstone’s.
Perhaps, the best course of action forms itself as I drink my morning coffee.
Right now, though, I feel like reflecting on the fact that most of the posts – indeed, most of my texts, be they literary, scholarly, or professional – are not pre-drafted. Very often they’re not even preconceived. Which makes me wonder about the nature of literature, and from where we take our ideas about it. I am convinced – partly being guilty of this myself – that we often dance from a given image. The given image of an author, e.g., would usually be a guy in specs sitting in a room of his own; or someone enlightened by inspiration, as on this portrait by Fragonard (left). Then Woolf comes along with her essay – and if you visit Heaton Hall and observe claustrophobic boudoirs, you will begin to see why no Shakespeare’s sister could be an author.
So, gradually we begin to think of an author – or writer – as someone who must live in certain conditions, surrounded by certain things. Further, it begins to appear as if he also must write in specific conditions. Again, this may be taken from contemplating the 17th c. paintings (right) or photographs in modern magazines. And at the same time we absolutely love the fact that the poet Blok or the painter Modigliani were producing their masterpieces in a bar. Thus is formed the image of an inspirational setting. Add to this Henry Miller’s protagonist who composes his texts between having sex and looking for money – and the lovely image of a poor promiscuous artist is shaped.
There is nothing wrong with this image, as such. But there’s a rub, and I will illustrate it on a less demure example. Like many people out there, I am fascinated by the idea of sex on the beach. It’s awesome, and I can’t quite choose between the action taking place when the sun is in full blaze, or at the sunset. Either way, my ideal setting would involve some rocks in the distance, the gentle roaring of the ocean, the pleasant warm wind, seclusion, and the soft sand.
There’re soft sands, in Majorca, for example. But, minus this, the dream place could be found somewhere closer to home, and back in the day when I read the article that shattered the dream I was in Russia. One day I came across an article that unveiled the sad truth of life to me. “So, you’re dreaming of sex on the beach?” – it read. – “Then brace yourself, for there is nothing romantic about it. The sand is nothing like that luxurious white powder you see on the screen. On a real beach the sand is coarse, and your skin will be burning, and your body will be aching, and there’ll be no pleasure or satisfaction – unless you lie on a big towel. But that isn’t remotely romantic“.
I said this article has shattered the dream. It hasn’t really; instead, it inadvertently pointed out to a gap between the ideal and reality. As much as we may question the reality, one thing is certain: the sand IS coarse, and if you don’t want your romantic time on the beach to turn into a nightmare of applying plasters, you have to take precautions.
Same with writing. Try and do some writing in a bar where you are deafened by music, laughter, and loud voices. What we probably don’t understand is that both the poet and the painter were eating, drinking, and meeting their friends at those bars. Writing came as a bonus; it was a natural consequence of a stimulus. I very much doubt that Blok would go to the bar with a precise idea of composing The Unknown Woman. The visits to the bar, however, made the poem possible.
And then there were Surrealists with their automatic writing. Everything you read in this post or elsewhere on the blog is automatic. The editing is usually minimal and mostly concerns the structure of the phrase, plus adding links, pictures and other media. At the moment, I don’t even know what it is that I’m going to write next. It is correct to say that I wasn’t even going to contemplate our understanding of writing in this post, but as I am contemplating it, I state that I didn’t have a precise idea of what I was going to write. This feels somewhat surreal, and the fact that it’s raining outside and I feel both relaxed and restless makes this post a strong reference to Surrealist study of dreams, hypnosis, and automatic creativity. Yet even though I don’t know what I’m going to write, I feel myself in control of the flow of the piece, even though there is no precise structure for this piece. As one of the speakers at Futuresonic said, blogging made him produce short pieces, half-related to one another, which in turn affected the fluidity and coherence of his oral presenations. For me, real-time blogging is a perfect illustration to the flow of thought, provided this is what you pursue and don’t mind sharing. Many texts were written on the subject of “how I write”, but little do we know, unless we go to the archives, about exactly how the process goes (check out Sholokhov’s draft of Quiet Flows the Don, for example). The beautiful thing about blogging for me is that it can show just that.
It’s taken me an hour to write this post. The delivery from Graze still hasn’t arrived; my slumberish yet creative state of mind is growing stronger; and by all accounts it looks like I’ll spend the day indoors. Although I may somewhat object to pre-writing blog posts, I don’t mind pre-publishing them. And I know that the mood like the one I’m in is precious and has to be caught and used to the full.
Jean-Honore Fragonard, Inspiration (1769)
Jan Brueghel Younger and Peter Paul Rubens, Allegory of Sight (1618)