On the other hand

I’m damned if I’ll give up yet. After three days of gardening distraction, I am back at my desk working on more submissions. Border Line has had several bites from agents and I should at least persist until the whole MS is asked for again in its revised form.

Feel invigorated since making this decision. In the meantime I have rebuilt the really rough bit of path, put turfs into bare areas, dug all the available granite setts into the edge of the dragon bed, moved a lot of earth on the new bank by the drive-to-be, started cleaning up the area by the knot-garden and had an all out battle with a dark corner of the garden full of cow parsley and Lords and Ladies (arum italicum). So rejection has had a very good outcome for the garden.

Martins were probably passers-by. We haven’t seen any more. Maybe they are the ones who arrive at my brother’s house in the South West about now.

Managed to go Lindy hopping this evening, interesting moves, but way too much talking. Feel pleasantly exhausted now. No piano practice for three days. So tomorrow piano and writing.

writer’s balancing act

A rejection yesterday; today a request to discuss my first novel, A Small Rain (out of print), with a book group. In yesterday’s paper a brief article by a literary agent complaining about capricious, deadline missing, needy, rude authors. I want to put my hand in the air and shout, “Please Miss, please Miss, take me instead. I work happily to deadline’s, I don’t do rude, or writer’s block and…” but she’s not listening.

However many books I finish, I always seem to be reading three more. Current trio are Kate Atkinson’s One Good Turn, James Shapiro’s Contested Will (good scholarly look at the history of Shakespeare doubters) and Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees.

Warm, sunny, windy spring day. Gardened to exhaustion.

age and procrastination

I have noticed an interesting effect of age. I no longer put off doing a major job properly. So in the garden, finding the protective mortar flaking off the lowest level of bricks in one area – which was in the same state four years ago when I was laying paving slabs there – I know that I must deal with it. I have this feeling with all heavy work in the garden; best to do it now, I may not feel like it in a year or so’s time, and best make a good lasting job of it.

This feeling spreads to other areas not necessarily involving physical strength. There is no longer anything to be gained by waiting for a better/quieter/more mature period in my life. While the tendency to cook up long term schemes and projects has not left me, perhaps I am finally learning to live in the moment.

I read that you should only touch a piece of paper once – meaning that when you open a letter you should answer and file it in one go. Looking at the pile of paper in the box that masquerades as my in-tray, I still have a way to go on that front.

Of course it may not be age at all. I have just finished reading an unpublished memoir of a WWII Far Eastern Prisoner of War (Dishonourable Guest, by W G Riley). Riley is a young Signalman who starts POW life in Changi, works on the Thailand-Burma Railroad, gets transported on the doomed Hokofu Maru troopship, and is one of the 23 Britons rescued in the dramatic Cabanatuan Raid at Luzon. I have read many POW memoirs in the course of the last three year’s research. Elements are the same, but each man’s story is unique. You would have to be very obtuse to reach the end of even one of these memoirs and not learn to appreciate the moment.

Riley made, in his son’s words, ‘anguished attempts to get the work published’. His whole life was affected, not only by his experience as a prisoner, but also by his need to get his  story written and known. It was never published as a book, but his son, Steve, had the second version of the text (the first was lost) typeset and printed 1988. This certainly puts the odd rejection by agents or publishers into perspective.

displacement activities and rejection

Over Easter I decided to rearrange my writing room. I have that dream – a room of my own in which to write. It is almost perfect, but, as always, there are compromises. I need to fit into it my desk, which is a large old Victorian pine table, with flaps and a pitted, stained surface, and my mother’s piano – a hundred year old upright, on which I dream of achieving something better than my current Grade II skills – and the double piano stool my father made. There is also a large modern filing cabinet that I share with my husband, a wide bookcase full of poetry, a floor-to-almost-ceiling set of deep shelves (Sally Army) full of files, dictionaries etc. a cabinet, a working chair, a reading chair and an assortment of box files, document wallets etc without a home and a large wastepaper basket. Plus the photos and paintings (all by, or of, friends and family) on the walls.

There is no way all this will fit elegantly into a room 13 x 10 foot square. I don’t attempt elegance, but I am fanatic about practicality. I need to reach or see everything important. I am also keen on a sense of space. I might not have done anything about the urge to move the furniture, if I had not had another rejection for Border Line from an agent. It was very warm and friendly – though clearly a standard email – and they no longer surprise of hurt, but a little displacement activity often ensues.

So now I am sitting sideways on to the wide, low window, looking out onto the new paths and bed I have been working on and yesterday I cleared my desk and continued working on one of Border Line’s less satisfactory characters.

Since drafting this I have moved the piano. This required a certain amount of weightlifting attack, guile and a lot of leverage with undignified positions sitting with my back to most solid object, the filing cabinet. It was only when the piano was finally in position that I realised that I had switched off the socket (now behind the piano) for the much needed lamp. After some pointless fishing with torch and bamboo, waited for EG to come home and help.

All working now and miraculously my back is still OK. Not much work on Border Line, but an important correction in Writing to a Ghost achieved. Unless the weather makes path work possible tomorrow, I will surely WRITE.