Tuesday, 22 December 2009

The Process

The last event of my professional year was my agent’s party last night. Unfortunately, half way through she cut herself on a broken glass that someone had disposed of rather carelessly. Apparently, the sight of blood always makes her faint, so she was slumped over her desk while colleagues held her arm up in the air to try to stop the bleeding. This sounds comical but in truth it was very alarming.

Today I went Christmas shopping in the mall.That was pretty alarming too. The food section of Marks and Spencers was like something from Dante’s Inferno.

I have loved Dante ever since I encountered the Divine Comedy in the Penguin translation at the age of 13. Indeed, those of my readers with a taste for intertextuality will be aware that my trilogy, The Promises Of Doctor Sigmundus, is a kind of reinvention of Dante’s themes. However, I prefer to encounter his creations in my imagination rather than in the Food Hall of my favourite retailer.

Now I am trying to content myself with getting the house ready for Christmas, wrapping presents, and arranging social meetings with friends and family. But I keep feeling like I’ve forgotten something important. What can it be, I wonder? Oh yes, writing.

I don’t like to be separated from The Process for even a day. I feel myself growing fainter by the hour. Not fainter like my poor agent confronted with her own blood. No, fainter as in an image, or a ghost perhaps - gradually disappearing.

One of my favourite poets, Catullus, practically invented the love-hate relationship. At least, he was the first to immortalize it in literature in a delightful couplet which begins odi et amo (I love and I hate). What is particularly clever about this opening is that because of the rules of Latin poetry, when you say these three words you have to run them together - so it’s like one word.

Catullus, of course, was talking about a woman but I think a lot of writers feel the same way about The Process. My wife said to me the other day, ‘You hate it when you’re at the beginning of a book, you hate it when you’re in the middle of a book and you hate it when you’re nearly at the end of a book. So when, exactly do you like it?’

I must have been complaining too much.

The thing is, I like it all the time as well. Especially when I can’t do it because something like Christmas intervenes. (I originally said ‘gets in the way’ there but that made me sound so curmudgeonly that I had to edit it out in favour of ‘intervenes’. There you are, you see: The Process. I can’t stop doing it.)

So Happy Holiday to all of you who take the time to read my blog. Or should that be Season’s Greetings. Or maybe something with ‘yuletide’ in it. But what the hell does yuletide mean, anyway?


Keren David said...

Happy Christmas Brian, and thank you for writing a blog that is always fascinating and beautifully written.

Brian Keaney said...

Thank you, Keren. And a very happy holiday to you!

Lost Wanderer said...

yuletide - tidings of yule?? ;)

I am a new follower to your blog and enjoying it. Totally agree with the shopping at Christmas part, which is why I have converted to Internet shopping.

I was wondering if I could get away with taking my netbook to mother-in-law's on Christmas Day and doing some editing. Maybe no one will notice.

Paul Lamb said...

Thanks for the holiday greetings, an thanks for the insight into The Process. Warm wishes and high regards to you from the middle of the U.S.

Brian Keaney said...

Certainly worth a try, Lost Wanderer.

Thanks , Paul. And the same to you!

Derek said...

Hi Brian,

Succinctly put. I'm finishing a first draft and I seem to have a resistance to penning those last 8 or 9000 words. And yet, the whole darn thing is frustrating me even as I relish the resolution of the plot lines. Writers and writing, eh? It's the gift that keeps on giving!

Yule, in case you weren't being ironic, is the Celtic festival of midwinter, much of its symbolism now incorporated into Christmas - the tree, holly, mistletoe, etc.

Have you tried the poet Stevie Smith as well?
Wishing you and your loved ones and your readers a festive one.

Brian Keaney said...

Hi Derek. Only 'Not Waving But Drowning' which everyone knows.

KC said...

Happy Christmas (um, Boxing Day,) Brian. I've been lurking on your Blog for the last month or so. It has inspired and encouraged me to begin the blogging practise for myself. Thank you for your regular and engaging entries and also your talk with me and my fellow AiF apprentices in London this September. You've already given me some invaluable advice and insight into the writing profession. I hope to see you again in the New Year.

And I wholeheartly agree with the subject of this post. I moan about 'The Process' all year long, then when I have to put my writing aside at Christmas time, I pine for it. I'm lucky to have family and friends who are understanding enough to let me disappear for a few hours of catch up time.

Brian Keaney said...

Nice to hear from you, Kelly. Happy Boxing day to you, too!