The Book As Teacher

May 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

It is fascinating  how each book has to teach the writer how to write it. As I begin what I hope will become my seventh book, I am humbled to find, again, that each new book means that you have to learn to write all over again. Sure some things do carry over: I know for example the stamina it takes to see a project through over several years, that the writing part isn’t hard, but the staying creative part is. I also know how difficult it is for family and friends that this project is as important to me as anyone of them. Not an easy thing to admit but it is true, there is a price to all work, and true creative endeavour operates right at the familial level. Fortunately as life goes on and creativity becomes a regular part of it, those who love us learn what is needed, and that we are not going away from them. The artist also learns to not be so much of an arse. In my case having an office completely separate from home means I can enter the bubble of writing, pacing up and down, and talking to myself; without wearing my beloved out with what might appear to be the behaviour of a mad person.

This new book is taking your correspondent on new journeys. I find myself so reluctant to heed the call to adventure, after all there is so much to do in the ordinary world: marketing, public projects, the festival circuit, promoting my new poetry book. Yet the call has been made and though there aren’t many words written yet, narratives, maps for the journey are laying themselves out in ink, calling me like a siren to taste what they have to offer.

Today this new book did the strangest thing, it moved from being a bright idea to being part of my body. One tool I use in my work is that I cover the office walls with thick lining paper held up by masking tape.  I need to think of many things simultaneously, so I write core ideas and process systems directly onto the walls as they are forming. Visitors to Siddique Towers often comment that it is like a mad professor’s laboratory, with my huge leather couch for lying on and gazing at the walls, while I let my eyes sit on the thick black markered writing; little drawings, post-it notes and photocopies bits covering most of the room. I would put a photo of the office up here but all the stuff on the walls is live, so it’s not really for anybody else’s eyes. Not that any of it would make much sense to you. Fortunately my visitors tend to be people who know not to ask what the scribbles mean.

By absorbing these scribbles into my body the book begins to resonate with the literary music I feel inside myself which will underpin how the book is written. Each book has different music, this is something else that I am learning as I move into my twentieth year of writing. When this core music then meets the story and the inherently wonderful music of the language then the sparks fly and to continue the metaphor, there is melody – or in the writer’s case literature.

Pic by Kilian Eng

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