Or at the very least causing some considerable discomfort.
This week I have placed myself on a self-imposed clampdown, a lockdown; I am, as they say in the military, confined to quarters. I am not having any physical contact with the outside world beyond the owner of the local off licence.
I am redrafting.
This blog therefore forms a single communiqué; a warning sign that I’m still alive. It is my only message to the outside world. For the rest of the week it’s just me and the words.
Having written the first draft of a novel in two-three hour chunks across just under six months it correspondingly reads exactly like that. It’s formed of short, punchy, castrated chapters; it has a narrative that skids from side to side and occasionally lurches out of control; the characterisation is inconsistent in places; one character never gets to finish her story, another disappears halfway and returns and the end simply because I forgot to write the bits of his journey in-between.
It is, however, I think rather good.
So in order to be able to put all the above right I need to fully immerse myself in this screwed-up dystopia I’ve clawed out from the poisoned shallows of my imagination and batter the bastard thing until it makes sense.
A week, then, off from paid work with robot babies and nine days running through another London of tomorrow.
It would have helped, though, if I’d made some of these people a bit more likable.
Aside from the inevitable mental problems of spending twelve hours upwards a day in a fictional dreamscape, this is also taking its physical toll. I’m trying to look after the body. I have stocked up on beer and whisky and vodka and wine and some food and plenty of coffee, but still my fingertips blister from thracking their way across plastic keys, their nails splintering and falling loose. My eyes are getting screen burn so as starry lights flicker through my vision. My left arm, already suffering from rsi, squeals with every four hundreth click of the mouse until the point where I am lying fully clothed on the bed at four in the morning seriously contemplating drilling a metal spike through the shoulder joint to strengthen it. Deep vein thrombosis is causing clots and violent bouts of pins and needles through my left calf. My kidneys sting.
My flat is starting to resemble the home of serial killer. It’s like the moment in A Beautiful Mind when the audience realises just quite how bonkers Russell Crowe is, as the camera pans through his shed showing walls amassed with random newspaper clippings, yellowed and frayed, flickering in the artificial breeze. Every centimetre of my walls not blocked off by bookcases has sheets of paper blue tacked to it. Reams and reams showing lyrics from punk and sixties girl group pop songs stolen from karaoke websites and printed out in an attempt to help me understand their structure and format. Random quotes read in books late at night and illegibly scrawled down in notebooks torn out and plastered to the walls. Ripped extracts from literary newspaper supplements across the windows the autumnal sunlight dappling through the thin paper making the type translucent. Photocopied pages from a stolen bible; the word of the lord pasted up and then torn apart to be reinterpreted as lyrics of disturbance.
I am drowning in words.
“This machine is a kind of devil, feeding my pride by giving my words substance. It promises to order my thoughts, declare their rationality and significance, promises value and weight, mercury hardened by iron and hammered onto paper. Even that impact is a promise: that my words will strike like a fist. It lies.” – Jason Lutes, Berlin: City of Smoke
Recently, in the context of a conversation about Nabokov, somebody asked whether I thought writers had a tendency to self-mythologise.
‘Of course they do,’ I replied, ‘aren’t we doing it right now?’