writing

About seven in the morning I go up to my workroom at the top of the house. And I’m really working as I get up and go downstairs to make a cup of tea. I’m working on the opening paragraph. One trick I have learned (I haven’t learned many in 35 years) is to have drafted the opening few lines in your head before you sit down to write them. The other one is to work out at the end of your session the next line for the next session, unless you’re at the end of a chapter.

I write from seven to half nine or ten o’clock – solid. Then till noon, depending on whether I have a film to see for the purposes of a review…You’ve got to write, even if you think it’s no good. You can always rewrite, but also, the stuff that I’ve felt seemed anything but fluent is usually more fluent when I get round to re-reading it. The extra effort does pay off.

While I’m writing a first draft it’s every day, even Christmas Day and my birthday. If I don’t do a couple of hours on Christmas morning before everyone else is around I get ratty for the rest of the day. I can do a bit of fiction in the morning and non-fiction in the afternoon because they are wholly different. Fiction I always write longhand for the first draft, on the right-hand side of a spiral notebook, with the left-hand side for corrections. The second draft has been on the word processor since The Influence (1988). With a manual typewriter I would get halfway down a page for the third time and still not like the opening sentence, but I wouldn’t bother to rip out the page and start yet again.

Ramsey Campbell
Interview with David Mathew for Infinity Plus

The price an artist pays

September 15, 2017

An artist must be open to the muse. The greater the artist, the more he is open to “cosmic currents.” He has to behave as he does. If he has “the courage to be an artist,” he is committed to behave as the mood possesses him. . . .

The price an artist pays for doing what he wants is that he has to do it.

William S Burroughs
Last Words: the final journals of William S Burroughs

dies a thousand deaths

September 15, 2017

I believe that the way to write a good play is to convince yourself that it is easy to do – then go ahead and do it with ease.

Don’t maul, don’t suffer, don’t groan – til the first draft is finished.

Then Calvary – but not til then.

Doubt and be lost until the first draft is finished

A play is a Phoenix – it dies a thousand deaths.

Usually at night – In the morning it springs up again from the ashes and crows like a happy rooster.

It is never as bad as you think.

It is never as good as you think.

It is somewhere in between and success or failure depends on which end of your emotional gamut concerning its value it actually approaches most closely. But it is much more likely to be good if you think it is wonderful while you are writing the first draft.

An artist must believe in himself…our belief is contagious. Others say – He is vain – but they are affected.

I have never had much of that faith – I have been a little too honest with myself and people.

Tennessee Williams
Journal Entry 5th October 1941

there we work magic

September 9, 2017

Though we come and go, and pass into the shadows, where we leave behind us stories told – on paper, on the wings of butterflies, on the wind, on the hearts of others – there we are remembered, there we work magic and great change – passing on the fire like a torch – forever and forever. Till the sky falls, and all things are flawless and need no words at all.

Tanith Lee
Final Blog Post

everyone is a book

September 8, 2017

books3

Writers tell stories better, because they’ve had more practice, but everyone has a book in them. Yes, that old cliché. If you gave the most interesting (to the person who’s living it) life to a great writer, they could turn it into something wonderful. But all lives are important, all people are important, because everyone is a book. Some people just have easier access to it. We need the expressive arts, the ancient scribes, the storytellers, the priests. And that’s where I put myself: as a storyteller. Not necessarily a high priestess, but certainly the storyteller. And I would love to be the storyteller of the tribe!

Tanith Lee
Love, Death & Publishers
Locus Magazine April 1998

not like a circus trick

September 1, 2017

I have to write longhand, and no one can read my writing, I have to type my own manuscripts, because I’m going almost in a zigzag, across and then down. (I don’t write backwards, I’ve never been able to do that!) Fortunately, it’s not like a circus trick where, when they try to work out how they did it, they’re unable to do it. If I can’t see something enough, I shut my eyes and look at it, and I don’t feel I am writing – I’m there.

I used to throw away my holograph manuscripts after I’d typed them, but I’m keeping a lot of them now, because obviously, at 50, I’m starting to think, if anyone ever is interested in me after I’m dead, they can look and see, ‘My god, this woman was a maniac!’

Tanith Lee
Love, Death & Publishers
Locus Magazine April 1998

lonely moan for the world

September 1, 2017

Poems are praise songs or a careful, lonely moan for the world: either way, it is the world itself that lifts them forward. They are the speechlessness of things ripening, pressing, into language. The poet contributes attention, permeability, a courageous leisure in which transfixity may occur; the poet combs out the lines until they come as close to shining as he can bring them. Yet another sort of silence can be a room you inhabit, a room of waiting, a room which is a sort of ear; writing is this availability, listening’s stripped place, in which the hidden lives of things, pumpkins, poplar groves, might be transcribed; writing is mostly this craning quiet.

Tim Lilburn
Walking out of Silence

Sound bites from the dark

August 30, 2017

Tanith Lee’s garden – a statue waiting

Tanith Lee’s Garden – face in the trees

Tanith Lee’s Garden – a pathway to infinity

Tanith Lee's house - stained glass

Tanith Lee’s house – stained glass

30th August

Donald Trump is frequently vilified by the mass media. Social media, too, is not exempt from this trend: electronic graffiti condemns the man’s actions or lack of same on a daily basis. And yet the question needs to be asked, is the real problem the American President or America itself?

Donald Trump did not seize power. He was elected by a majority – democratically. Faced with a choice between a woman and a billionaire television personality, the US electorate chose the television personality – And, yes, it is inspirational to see what democratic nations can do when they think the chips are down.

The American people awarded the imperial purple to a man who has succeeded in lowering the issues of the day to the level of triviality. To sound bites. A promise of government by twitter feed. American politics has become, under Trump’s presidency, as thrilling, and almost as much fun, as an appendectomy performed without benefit of anaesthetic.

And with regard to the media they seem distracted by each fresh utterance this president makes. Which, of course, is exactly what he wants. Major issues degenerate into a name-calling contest, while a procession of minor celebrities and wannabes appear, and as rapidly disappear, as presidential aides and advisors. Movement signifies progress – even when that movement is perfectly static or backwards! America run as a corporation by a businessman used to having his own way.

Should we be surprised? No we should not. Donald Trump exists in a world that demands twenty-four-hour rolling self-obsession. And he is there to fill this almost ecological niche in the American psyche. He is president because of hostility towards those pesky interfering liberal do-gooders who force “political correctness” on everybody; he will clean house, rid the country of all those undesirables who have slipped surreptitiously across America’s borders; he will end Muslim migration! He will make America great again!

It’s almost as if a majority of the American electorate woke up one morning with a cloying, skin-tight rage, a need to lash out at something, anything, and change the face of their society. Sick to death of fatuous, self-absorbed politicians who all seemed mired in minutia and an age old mantra of consumer democracy so inescapable, yet so reliant on carefully-marketed kitsch, that they voted for Trump.

And they got him.

#

Really good weather at the end of last week. Mowed both lawns. Caught the sun. Working in the garden my thoughts drifted to the late Tanith Lee’s incredible house and garden in Hastings where she lived with her partner John Kaiine.

Tanith’s home was so like a wild fantasy, a journey beyond commonplace reality. There, it was easy to imagine a place “more poignant than the plumage of the spring.” There, indeed, could be heard “music played by the reflection of a swan as it passes over the strings of a moonlit lake.” Dusk in that garden and the leaves on the trees seem to form strange shapes and faces. A place of irregular stones and inconsistencies…

Should somebody penetrate the barbed-wire entanglement of my handwriting and read my Roughs , it would make little sense to him. He would find bewildering changes of time and place. The people would confound him with sudden new characteristics. Some would change their looks. Some would be whisked away without explanation. Some would put in a late appearance, yet be greeted by the rest as though they had been there from the beginning. He would find, this reader, traces of style followed by no style at all; pedestrian phrases, clichés, straight flat-footed reporting. Here a whole sequence of scenes complete and next some mingy skeleton stuff with a burst of apparently contemptuous hieroglyphs on the blank left-hand page beside it. Nor is the left-hand page reserved for “Exp” (meaning Expand, “X” (meaning Wrong), “//” (meaning much the same as “X” only more so) and “?” (meaning what it says). The left-hand page is likely to be a shambles, taking afterthought insertions for the right-hand page; paragraphs whose position may not be indicated at all. No; a reader would have no more fun with the Rough than the writer is having.

Pamela Frankau
Pen to Paper

17th August

While writing all else around me dissipates, vanishes as if it might never have been. The words I write, all my past experience is then vividly filtered and reborn in the labyrinth of mind – for all creation is fantasy, invention, yet solidly rooted in individual reality. Reality transformed by imagination.

#

Life is full of imponderables. For instance, how many roundabouts are there really in Milton Keynes? I hear of individuals going out with pen and paper to create a definitive list of them, but each day (or so it seems) the number of roundabouts changes?

Same too with the Hanger Lane Gyratory System: they say 10,000 vehicles an hour pass through this complex London junction – some never to be seen again! Is it possible, as has been suggested, that the planners in designing this, Britain’s “scariest” junction, had inadvertently created a portal to other dimensions?

And, as if that wasn’t bad enough, what the hell were they thinking when they put an Underground station slap in the feckin’ middle of it? Pedestrians trying to cross eight lanes of accelerating traffic have two options – die horribly, or dematerialise and reappear elsewhere…hopefully in the Underground station?

In another time Hieronymous Bosch would have cheerfully included the Hanger Lane Gyratory System in one of his visionary paintings of hell.

#

I’ve lived in this place at the edge of the moor longer than anywhere else in my life. Yet still it is not ‘home’. I feel strangely disposed here. An exile, if you will. A stranger in a strange land.

So, where then is my home?

Perhaps in a long gone childhood? There are times I feel old friends, shadows now, beckoning to me. But such a return is impossible. Instead I must remain in this chaotic half-world, wandering round the house with my ghosts.

So, is it time to move on? Find somewhere else to live? No way will I suffer in suburban miserabilism. It must be rural, wild – perhaps on a mountainside in Wales?

The Lake district?

And will I continue these dispatches from inside a fractured identity? I don’t know. But it is time to start searching for properties elsewhere.

Although I will miss the Bluebells flowering in the spring in our secret places, those places nearby where we lay and make love beneath the trees –