It’s a Dog Day on Ether

Dog Day

Within the hour, all four were done up like dogs’ dinners, installed in a stretch limo with cheesy piped music, and deposited in front of a gilded reverend of questionable denomination.

‘Dog Day’ is the story of an easy marriage that rumbles along until the social wheels fall off. For Alice and Frank, this could be a breaking point. On Ether Books today.

Writing well and coathangers

You’ll recognise all those descriptions of how easy it is to write – ‘stare at the page until your eyes bleed’, that kind of thing – and they work for writers because we have been there. But what about the people who can’t? How do you describe the process in a way that puts them in your space? And what about really understanding it ourselves so that we can be more efficient about our own writing process? Bleeding eyes is not a good marker for success.

"Well, the well whent down to hell"

Yesterday, struggling first to get ‘out of the room’ as it were, because someone was coming later to fix the dryer and I couldn’t focus, I was suddenly hauled back into the room by a man wanting me to sign for next door’s parcel. It was like being on the end of a bungee – not that I’ve ever been there you understand but I’ve seen what happens – springing back into the real world from the deep pit of my imaginary one and with no time to even drop an anchor.

And there was the image: my writing process involves sitting in automatic mode above ground while my imagination climbs down a long, long ladder into a deep, deep well. Unfortunately, it has a rope around its waist and this rope is attached to the door bell, the calendar, the dog, the radio; any and all of which can drag my precious thinking back up and out into the daylight without warning. There is no opportunity to put my short term memory buffer into freeze frame, no pause button, and no instant replay. It’s like getting the mental bends and it can derail a whole train of unformed thought. Imagine the wreckage!

Of course, I can go back down once the interruption has been dealt with, but not only is the original impetus lost, the only way down is via the ladder – a long slow process made worse if there is further anticipated interruption on the cards. So my imagination hangs there half way down, stepping back and forth like a mantis and getting nowhere at all. Up to now, I’ve needed so much time around the descent and ascent that even the thought of interruption makes arriving at the bottom of the well less likely.

But when I do get down there, instead of an homunculean replication of blank paper, there is a pile of coat-hangers. Wire ones – plain and simple and empty. There’s also an empty clothes rail which I slowly populate with these little moveable structures upon which I will later hang detail. Unlike Stephen King who reportedly prunes his first drafts, I build on mine. The rail and the hangers are the skeleton of the story; they’re the elements of it and I often have no real idea of what they will be before I begin.  Once I have them, I can add the colours and textures, shift them around to manipulate time, layer them, mix cardigans with posh frocks and lace with denim, then stand back to see how it all looks. Sometimes I throw the whole dressing-up box at the rail, other times I’m aiming for minimalist chic so the favourite old boots and scarves are packed away back in the repository.

For me, there’s nothing like conceptualising something to enable better management and I find visualisation is invaluable. Now that I have this in mind, I can be more confident about my process and less swayed by the advice of others to ‘do it’ this way or that. I reckon I might also become better at using smaller tracts of time – getting down into the well more quickly and having more control over the return to the surface. I think I will be pulling out the ladder, cutting the rope, and installing a lift.

And now for the imagery, a clear vindication of my brief engagement with Fine Art:

mental well 1coathangers 1coathangers 4

For National Poetry Day: ‘Philosopher Stoned’

I wrote this in a poetry workshop so it must be a poem, yes? But when I sent it out into the world to be appraised for publication (I know, delusional) they said it wasn’t really. It’s been hanging around on my blog ever since, puffing out its chest and posturing to make up for its perceived inadequacies. So in honour of, or more likely a threat to, National Poetry Day, I give you:

Philosopher Stoned

He is brazenly, brilliantly, brassed off by the polished politics of the righteous right.
He heats arguments on pupils bright as buttons of molten jet in eyes alive with intellectual trickery.
He rolls concepts and ideas over the strop of his tongue like globules of mercury, loosed from the tedium of measurement.
His love of chase is betrayed by tiny garnet blushes on nose and cheeks; cooing infants to his icy fire of victory.

He scrubs the thoughts of neophytes with the steel wool of Socratic questioning.
Deftly iterating incantations of hegemonies, he hides exquisite diamond cuts in the woollen clouds of distracting verbiage.
He wears iron filings on his chin and calls them his beard; a professorial promulgation of proletarianism.
His wisdom does not come in glossy spheres to be cast before swine, but in the weft and warp of knit-one-purl-one patchwork blankets of the Workers’ Struggle.

Ideas settle like wise moths in the old, gold grail of his ancient and modern mind, to feed on dusty nets of idealism.
Like neglected and slowly rusting scaffolding, his body is there only to house the sapphiric laser of his intellect.
He chisels and chips at the coal face of complexity, mining for perpetuity in the legacy of runes.

©suzanne conboy-hill 2011