Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Keep Calm and Carry On

Why does life expand like a soggy sponge just when you don’t want it to? The novel has once again been languishing on the hard drive while I wait for trains, debate work-stuff, roll brainless on tubes, lie limp through yoga, create splats (soup), wash up splats, wash hair, feed cat and get extraordinarily tired-out by 9pm. I’m not partying, drinking (much), nor have any excuse whatsoever apart from I’m sad at heart, its January, and January is far from the madding payday.

I was doing so well after Christmas! But events conspired against me. I’m sure I will pick up again soon. I opened chapter 13 yesterday and did a few minute revisions, stared for twenty minutes at one sentence and then sloped away again downstairs to stare instead at a television. There is no thought required for a television; it acts as a passive brain-blocker. Sometimes that is the only requirement for an evening.

I am still reading Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain, written in 1933. It is a remarkable book. Vera is really alive in its pages – her writing voice is quite unique, and gets across so completely her personality. There might be a full review coming up one day, but for the meantime this passage struck a chord with me:

But I was clearly enough aware that parents brought up in the nineteenth-century tradition would have preferred, not unnaturally, a happily married daughter producing grand-children to a none-too triumphant Oxford graduate floundering unsuccessfully in that slough of despond which lies just inside the gateway of every path to the literary life.

Oh that slough of despond. It’s been over seventy years since that sentence was first written, and yet I completely understand, sympathise and agree with her words. I can see it oh-so clearly, my particular slough, it bubbles noxious gasses through clinging marsh mud. I seem to carry it everywhere I go, and I stand in it with every conversation I have. I also feel ‘none-too triumphant’ these days, and that I am floundering unsuccessfully without being able to have the strength of conviction and the energy needed to propel me forward. But there is hope also in her words – that the ‘slough of despond’ is one of the final barriers in the path of being an author. So I have to keep calm and carry on.

No comments: