Good News, Bad News, Good News

Dorothy Sayers did it, but for some reason it never occurred to me until a friend of mine suggested it. It’s a truly brilliant idea.

Lightbulb and performer over the Emirates Stadium

Instead of waking up each morning going urgh, another day at the Dreaded Day Job, why not wake up saying ooh! I wonder what new material for a novel will be presented to me today?

Brilliant!

Dorothy Sayers worked in an advertising agency for many years and subsequently wrote Murder Must Advertise – a murder mystery set in an advertising agency. Satisfyingly, the fact that it’s an advertising agency is important to the plot. Any Old Office would not do.

Naturally, mine will be a murder mystery too, and in honour of white-collar wage-slaves everywhere, the boss will be the victim. (The first victim, anyway.) Everyone has a motive – but whodunit?

For the first time I see how much difference attitude makes, compared with circumstance. Now when my long-suffering colleagues pour out some new frustration, I don’t get worked up any more. I smile a secret inward smile and I make a cryptic little note.

I Have Discovered The Physiological Source of All Happiness!

On the Bad News side of the ledger, I was informed this last Tuesday that my next Monday was cancelled. High volume of work + low volume of staff = we’re unilaterally changing your hours this week (don’t even ask about my contract).
Generally the DDJ and I would go head to head on a thing like this, but not this time. This time it’s to cover bereavement leave, which is something I wholeheartedly support, so I’ll do my bit. And hopefully I’ll do my bit of writing during the Christmas holidays.

On the subject of writing, I have received some more good news. My patrons have generously decided to provide me with a small fund toward the costs of my presently unpaid job as a writer. (Paper, pen, ink, books on the craft…) On my shopping list at the moment are Kristen Lamb’s book Rise of the Machines, Jeff Gerke’s Plot Versus Character and Larry Brooks’ Story Engineering. Happy as a pig in muck!

Mr Pig aka Rasher!

What are your favourite workplace novels – murder mystery or otherwise? Do you have must-read recommendations for books on writing? Have you always dreamt of keeping pigs? Your comments welcomed!

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Someday

They say that everyone needs something to do, someone to love, and something to look forward to.
But what if the looking forward takes over? What if you are living for the day to come, instead of the day you have?

I was reading the archives of A Cat of Impossible Colour recently and this post rang a bell with me. In fact, for a few minutes there I was a full peal of bells (except quieter).

Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Paris nef nouvelles cloches

Number four especially struck a chord – can you strike chords with bells? Students of campanology are welcome to advise.

As you are no doubt aware, I eagerly await the day when the DDJ and I can permanently part company. Among my circle of friends and acquaintances (but not workmates, for obvious reasons) I am becoming almost a joke about it.

But as Andrea Eames (A, or quite possibly The Cat of Impossible Colour) says:

“There is no magical point in the future at which everything will fall into place and be perfect. If I’m going to be happy and do the things I want to do, I have to do them now. I can’t wait for everything to be harmonious. For example, saying “I can’t possibly write a novel now, the house is a mess. I’ll wait till we move” is silly because when we move things will be in even greater chaos for a while. And then something else will come along to help me procrastinate. So my insight here is: there is no point in the future when I will be slim, fit, have perfect skin and hair, have harmonious relationships with everyone in my life, be fulfilled, happy, tidy, clean and generally perfect. It’s impossible, and striving for it will only make me anxious.”

I can’t wait for Someday, as deeply as I long for it, as much as it seems all my troubles would evaporate in the face of that dawn.

A new dawn

I have to live now.
I have to write now.

I have long struggled with the feeling that I have to have every other part of my life in order and under control before I can be permitted to write. Particularly the housework.

I have been getting better of late at putting the distraction of dust aside in order to use what time I have to write (although there are those who feel I may have the fulcrum of this particular balance rather too far to one end).

But the truth is that I’m never going to get all those plates to spin. My house is never going to look like this.

Showhome Living Room

I remember being distressed almost to the point of tears when I was told, in my mid-teens, that adult life didn’t contain enough time for all the things you Had to do, let alone time for the things you actually wanted to do. I would still like to believe that isn’t necessarily true, but right now, that’s how it seems to be.

I do not have the time – and/or energy – to work full time, keep house, maintain relationships with friends and family near and far, deepen my spiritual life and write.
At some point I have to come to terms with being labelled a failure in some parts of my life – even if the label is only inside my own head.

FAIL stamp

And maybe it won’t always be this way. Maybe balance is waiting just past the horizon, if I just keep trying.

But I believe that I should write, and I am quite certain that almost nothing else will get me out of bed half an hour before dawn, with the frost whitening the grass and my fingers almost too numb to grip the pen.

La bohème

I don’t get out of bed in the morning so I can go to a job I don’t like. I don’t get up so my house will be sparkly clean, or even a particularly nice place to be, as much as I would like it to be. I don’t get up for the Oughts.

I get up so I can write. So I can make one tiny step in the right direction. So no matter what else I achieve or don’t achieve, no matter how insignificant the constituent parts of my life may seem, I wrote. In this at least, I did not fail.

I did something that was important to me, and it may not have been much, but I did it. And I will keep doing it, even if that half hour of darkness is all I ever get. I will keep taking those tiny steps, as long as circumstances prevent me taking longer ones.

pies-encadenados

Because I can’t wait for Someday, as much as I long for it to appear.
I have to write now.
Because now is all I have.

April: A Sense of Integrity

Not that I was enormously lacking in integrity before April – used car salesman I am not.

Used Car Salesman

This is more about recovering a true you-ness, something like what I mentioned in this post.

Synchronicitously, (is that a word? it is now) I keep encountering these two quotes from e.e. cummings of late:

“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”

e. e. cummings layout

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”

This is in some measure related to the Christian teaching that your truest self – the one God sees when he looks at you – is who he created you to be, not who you have so far made of yourself.
This chapter, then, is about the recovery or even discovery of that truest self – not all in a rush, but slowly, peeling back the layers of damage, time and grime until the masterpiece beneath is revealed.

Painting damaged by fire

So, other than the Reading Deprivation, of which I fancy you have heard enough to last you a lifetime (it’s certainly going to last me) what did this chapter involve?

The first task was to imagine your ideal environment. Booooks… Then you were to find an image (or make one, if, unlike me, you have more artistic ability than a meerkat on bad acid) and put this in your writing area. Ditto for your favourite season.

So, my little writing nook (the product of an unofficial Artist’s Date with furniture-moving) is now embellished with a cosy hobbit kitchen and an autumnal canyon-scape.

Four Seasons by Alfons Mucha, circa 1895

Also a picture of my Censor, which I keep on the floor – got to keep that voice in its place!

Then I had to go back and forth in time. “Describe yourself at eighty.” Frankly, I have no idea where my life is going and I doubt it’ll go that far, but if I do make eighty I bet I’ll be one of those acute old ladies who says what she thinks you need to hear and doesn’t mind how excruciatingly embarrassed you are by it.

And then memories of being eight. Not much came to mind, and I was a little hazy as to the actual year (I might have been seven) but I remember having purple and green dragon slippers with pink mohawks, and wearing jammies the colour of lemon meringue pie.

And speaking of pie, there was another look at the life pie – as munted as ever, and definitely needing work in the area of work. World's Ugliest Pie
As Task 9 asked, “Look at one situation in your life that you feel you should change but haven’t yet. What is the payoff for you in staying stuck?”
Well, in this case, the payoff is pay. Man does not live on bread alone, but it certainly helps.

My Extended Artist’s Date plan (Task 7) starts with a morning going the rounds of the second hand clothing shops, moves on to a leisurely lunch followed by a walk on the beach and winds up curled on the couch with a hot chocolate and a classic movie.

(Poll: would you say that “Plan a small vacation for yourself… Get ready to execute it” means
a) plan it and then do it
b) plan it, and then await instructions to carry it out
c) plan it, and then prepare to shoot it at dawn?)

I also wrote an Artist’s Prayer (Task 6) which I shall likely soon share – and hopefully start remembering to use.

Thomas Merton (1915-1968)