The trick is never to let yourself believe it is pouring fully formed from your fingers into a submittable file. It’s all roughs. It’s layering. It’s starting with the six lines you had, that you foolishly believe constitute “an idea,” and editing them and adding to them and sculpting them and building on them and then realising it’s shit and saving that version, renaming the file and starting again, going back to where you went wrong and rewriting, until you feel like you have the shape of something that might actually be useful.
I’ve been going over old writing and poems I did at the start of March and I remember none of it. Which is helpful, because then I can tear it apart and rebuild it.
More than ever, I consider this building and shaping as Warren Ellis calls it to be the actual craft of writing. A lot of joy comes from changing things as you go. Very few things start immediately perfect, but they usually have a germ of an idea within them. There’s a lot of fun in shifting and changing and altering to make that idea clearer or to get it to where you want to be. In the first draft, I find new images, but in subsequent ones I find a structure.
I have a fancy new profile picture thanks to Sam Cavender and his restored Mayima. Oooh medium format expired film. It makes me want to dig out my film cameras again
It was taken after the Lyra Festival slam last Saturday. So only a week ago but it feels like forever. A lot has happened since then. There’s been so much rapid change to our way of life that time has expanded, so a day feels like a week and a week feels like a year.
I’m adapting best I can. I’m lucky in that both my girlfriend and I can work from home and live in a city where we have access to food and supplies. Still, it’s a major disruption to the whole of society so I think it’s going to feel strange for some time.
My point is: look after yourself as much as possible in these unprecedented times. Maybe start journaling, exercise or meditation, all things that have helped me with my mental health in the past. Connect with friends virtually. Or take some time to feel weird about it all, however that manifests for you. This crisis is going to affect everyone mentally and emotionally. Even if you think you are mentally healthy and resilient, it’s important to make sure you are checking in with yourself and doing constructive things to help, whatever that may be.
Here’s a good article by Josie George, who has a chronic illness meaning she has spent most of her time inside. It focuses on the mental resilience needed and I found it very useful. There’s also this podcast from conversations Against Living Miserably which has some useful tips.
Stay inside, wash your hands and stay safe and healthy. We’ll get through this.