there are no formulae, there are no solutions, there is no rest

23 April, 2010

Well, the summer term’s just started this week, so it’s time to start blogging again. Actually there’s a lot of stuff I’d like to have written about over the last few weeks, but it was nice to have a break from it all.

I’ve just handed in my second piece of coursework – last term’s offerings, edited – and to be honest I’m still feeling a bit exhausted from the mental sprint at the end. Actually, less of a sprint, more like digging ditches, just at very high speed. As usual I didn’t really plan my time brilliantly (having a bit too much fun/relaxation over the holidays rather than faithfully plodding on with the writing/editing), so the last week has been fairly intense. To put it mildly. And I’m afraid that, as with last term’s coursework, I didn’t really feel I’d got there with quite a few of the pieces.

But maybe that’s always the way? And maybe that’s the mark of becoming a better writer, at this stage – being less easily satisfied with your work.

That said I did find the editing process much less mysterious this time round. I think approaching it in terms of looking at image/imperative was really helpful; certainly I did feel like I was pushing much deeper into my work than I did with the previous term’s writing. Of course when you’re working really closely on something it can be hard to step back with any objectivity and say whether it’s better or not, but I did feel that at least I was working in a way that was both logical and intuitive.

Still, it’s a daunting task: going back to that idea that’s solidified into a poem, which you haven’t thought about for a while, and looking at your heavily annotated copy, and then trying to decipher your coursemates’ and tutor’s comments too, and working out which of their comments/criticisms/questions have most hit home. And then asking yourself those questions – what am I really trying to say here? Why is saying this important to me? Have I retreated from it just when it was about to take off, or am I hammering it home in the most prosy, cliched way?

Post-workshop annotation of last term's villanelle (since renamed)

And then – trying to make it better. Not just tinkering, but getting back into its skin. Turning it from a rabbit into a fish, if necessary.

It’s been a pretty draining process, to be honest; when you’re writing something new, it can feel hard getting those first few lines down, but at least you’ve been grabbed by this idea, this image. When you’re editing you’re just face to face with your own inadequacies as a writer, staring glumly at the page, asking yourself ridiculous questions like ‘does the shift in point of view here complicate the poem in a way that can be used more decisively?’ And as our tutor said at the end of a discussion of one of my pieces, completely deadpan, ‘there are no formulae, there are no solutions, there is no rest.’ I really felt the truth of those words this week.

Anyway, I’m having a bit of a rest now. It’s handed in, and for the next couple of weeks I’ll be focusing on the coursework for the fiction module. Easy! (That was a joke, fiction friends.)

This post brought to you by encouragement/bullying from Mum, cupcakes from Karen, and Future Funk from Marky

2 Responses to “there are no formulae, there are no solutions, there is no rest”

  1. pupski said

    Well done for doing it! Editing is the most daunting thing I think, even harder than actually writing something in the first place. Sometimes I look at a poem so much I cease to remember what the imperative was and begin to wonder why I wrote the damn thing in the first place!

  2. […] module). I was determined to hand in a collection I felt more confident in this time around, but it didn’t quite work like that – although I do feel that my work has changed hugely since the first batch I handed in, I really […]

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