Living with the Truth Stranger than Fiction This Is Not About What You Think Milligan and Murphy Making Sense

Friday, 4 May 2012

Drowning in chocolate: an apology ... eventually


What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?
W H Davies (‘Leisure’)

I am not someone one would generally think to call an optimist. Introverted, melancholic individuals are not generally prone to expressing an overly positive view of life even if, on the whole, they hold one. Even the most introverted and melancholic individual will, however, most likely, fall in love at some time during their life and at that that time—if only at that time—they get a whiff of what optimists must feel every day. It doesn’t matter how hopeless their situation is, how unrequited their love is, hope is like one of those gremlins that only needs a sip of water after midnight to turn into a monster willing to tear your life to pieces.

They say that beauty is the eye of the beholder and the fact is that most people who behold Angelina Jolie think she is beautiful—drop-dead gorgeous. They really don’t have to argue their case. They elbow the guy sitting next to them and say, “What do you think about that then?” to which he replies, “Yeah, I know.” Nothing more needs to be said. They know. But Angelina Jolie is not who we usually think about when we use that expression. We usually have in mind some plain Jane or whatever the male equivalent is. “What does she see in him?” some woman wonders. “I don’t know,” another responds, “I guess she must see something.” And the same goes for our shy guy who has just seen this (if only in his eyes) perfect beauty walk into his life. That something, that je ne sais quoi, is something that probably the man himself can’t explain. All he’ll know is that it’s unimaginable to him that every bloke in the room doesn’t feel the same way as he does and he better act quickly or his opportunity will slip through his fingers, so he suppresses his shyness, takes a deep breath and goes for it.

The poets of old likened love to a madness and they weren’t far wrong. But they were talking about romantic love just as I was in my opening paragraphs. As we learned, though, in a recent article there are many different kinds of love. You’ve written a book—congratulations!—it took you years, your poured your heart and soul into it, took your time, revised, edited, proofread, proofread again—no flies on you—and it’s just about as perfect a thing as you’ve ever read. It comes back from the printer and you hold it in your hands and tears well up in your eyes: you have never seen such a beautiful thing in your life.

And then nobody buys the ruddy thing.

Why? Why not? Can’t they see? Don’t they know? Don’t they get it? Why don’t they get it? Well, the fact is that they’re all looking at Angelina Jolie—or at least the literary equivalent. Jeffrey Archer's Kane and Abel sold 34 million copies, Jacqueline Susann's Valley of the Dolls sold 30 million, Colleen McCullough's The Thorn Birds also sold 30 million and The Da Vinci Code sold a whopping great 80 million. I look at those books and I don’t get it. I don’t see what those people saw in those books. Valley of the DollsBut then I’m not really that attracted to Angelina Jolie. It’s not that she’s out of my league—which she is—but I tend to go for what I’m simply going to call non-traditional beauty. And the same goes for the books that excite me, the books where I want to elbow the guy next to me and say, “Hey have you read such-and-such?” only to hear him respond, “Who?”

I went to a mental health practitioner a while back and at one point during one of my sessions I happened to use the term ‘Kafkaesque’ and was asked to explain myself. You see, I don’t get that. I really don’t get that. I wanted to rush home and grab The Trial and Metamorphosis, dash back and thrust them into her hands: “Stop what you’re doing. Cancel all the rest of your appointments and just read these. You will thank me.” It’s like someone saying, “The Beatles?” At least that’s how I feel, although Kafka’s a bit more Lou Reed than Paul McCartney. (What do you mean, “Who’s Lou Reed?” Don’t get me started.)

You see you can’t share a girl—okay, you can, but that would be just plain weird—but you can share a book. That’s what I love about books. Everyone can get their own pristine copy that no one has thumbed through or turned the corners of the pages down in or scribbled obscenities in the margins of. A book is a beautiful thing. My book is a beautiful thing. It is. It is, it is, it is, it is, it is. Is. Beautiful. And she’s not out of your league, you won’t be out of pocket if you buy her or even over your head when you read her. She’s a nice book and just the right length. Perfect.

Why can’t you see what I see?

A book is a product. I think a lot of authors forget that. It’s one of thousands of other products. Once you start thinking about it as such then it’s easier to start looking at it objectively. I’m not big on brands personally. I’m just as likely to buy Tesco’s own as I am to buy Birds Eye; cost is my primary motivator. That said I’m well aware that a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow is no Fiat Punto but is it worth the money if all you want is a little runabout to take you down to the shops and back?

People read books for all sorts of reasons. But before they even get that far they have to choose a book and the first thing that an author has to realise is this: No one wants to read your shit. This doesn’t mean what you’ve written is shit. I’m thinking more in the ‘muck and brass’ mentality. People approach your work with a negative attitude. Their minds are in the off position. They want to be turned on. They want to be wined and dined. They don’t want to jump in between the covers with any ol’ author.

So how do they decide? They have to rely on advertising. And that’s a very bad place to start because advertisers lie. We have come to accept that as a fact of life. Newspapers lie. Politicians lie. Advertisers lie. This is the world we live in. And that’s a great big turn off. I’ve written a book. It’s a great book. And you say, “Says you.” And I go, “Well, read these reviews,” and you go, “These are just your friends. Besides didn’t you just review their books? Why should we believe anything they say?” And I go, “Er.”

That line about no one wanting to read our shit comes from an article by Steve Pressfield called The Most Important Writing Lesson I Ever Learned. Here it is in context:

Nobody–not even your dog or your mother–has the slightest interest in your commercial for Rice Krispies or Delco batteries or Preparation H. Nor does anybody care about your one-act play, your Facebook page or your new sesame chicken joint at Canal and Tchoupitoulas.

It isn’t that people are mean or cruel. They’re just busy.

Nobody wants to read your shit.

There’s a phenomenon in advertising called Client’s Disease. Every client is in love with his own product. The mistake he makes is believing that, because he loves it, everyone else will too.

They won’t. The market doesn’t know what you’re selling and doesn’t care. Your potential customers are so busy dealing with the rest of their lives, they haven’t got a spare second to give to your product/work of art/business, no matter how worthy or how much you love it.

He then goes on to talk about how to make your product more enticing and we’ve all seen what advertisers do to try and sex-up products.

The reason I started writing this article was because I’ve been spending quite a bit of time of late on a number of Facebook groups in the company of a lot of new authors who have decided to go down the independent publishing route and I’ve been quite bowled over by their enthusiasm. Actually that’s not really true. As the introverted and melancholic individual of the opening paragraph I’ve actually found their enthusiasm a bit wearing. They all love their books so much. Which I get. I do. I really do. But not being anything remotely like the effusive type some of these people are (or feel they need to be seen to be) I have to admit to feeling totally overwhelmed and, as such, left all but one group. I know that all writers are readers but all I could see here were writers selling to other writers, reviewing each other’s books and trying to create a buzz but only among a very small community: five hundred people promoting five hundred plus books to the same five hundred people all of whom are running around like headless chickens trying to promote their own stuff and none of whom have the time to read everything on their to-read piles.

Tommy CooperI watched a comedian over the Christmas period. He was one of those quick-fire comics—bam! bam! bam!—and he was very funny as you would expect (from the Tommy Cooper / Ken Dodd school of joke-telling) but I noticed after the gig was finished I couldn’t remember a single joke. Not one. After thinking about it for a while one came back to me—My dog has no dictionary. How does he spell ‘terrible’?—but that was it. And that’s how I feel about the Internet. All these jokers, one after another, with big smiles on their faces, trying to get me excited about their particular thing, be it a poem, a review, an article, a photo, a link, a story, an inspiring quote or a bit of trivia, or the latest thrilling instalment in an ongoing series of ebooks about vampire unicorns. I showed my wife the entries in my feedreader this morning and she said, “That’s too much.” That wasn’t even a fraction of the posts I subscribe to (247 at the moment) and all she was seeing was what had come in since I cleared out the folder before going to bed.

I used to think you couldn’t get too much of a good thing but you can:

Camden worker dies after falling into 8-foot-deep vat of chocolate

by Gloucester County Times

Wednesday July 08, 2009, 4:07 PM

CAMDEN -- A city man died today after falling into an eight-foot deep vat of chocolate at a factory in Camden.

Vincent Smith II, 29, was standing on a nine foot high platform at Cocoa Services loading solid chocolate into a melting vat when he fell into the vat about 10:30 a.m., according to the Camden County Prosecutor's Office.

A co-worker immediately hit an emergency shutoff switch and two others tried to pull Smith out, according to Jason Laughlin, a spokesman for Camden County Prosecutor Warren Faulk.

However, Smith was hit by an agitator, a large paddle-like piece of machinery in the vat used to mix the solid chocolate as it melts, Laughlin said.

Smith suffered fatal injuries from the blow. Firefighters removed Smith from the vat. He was declared dead at the scene.

And, of course, plenty of people have died in vats of wine and whisky. And even tomato sauce apparently.

I remember people in the past talking about avoiding the rush hour. Okay they were on about the rush hour traffic but actually when I used to drive to work that was one of the calmest times in my day. There was just me in a car—if the bugger saw fit to start in the morning—wending my way along the highways and byways listening to the music of my choice—assuming the tape deck didn’t chew up the tape—and the rest of the time, well, those were the rush hours. I used to literally run around the office to try and get things done in time. It’s no wonder I had a breakdown.

The thing is now I’m starting to get those same feelings again and I see that I’m not alone. There are a lot of you out there who somehow—I’m sure it wasn’t part of the grand plan—have suddenly realised that you’re drowning in chocolate, metaphorically speaking: glutinous blogs, gooey websites, gummy e-zines. The Internet is great, it really is, but then so is chocolate in moderation so the doctors tell us. A few months ago I posted an article on Seamus Heaney after which I ordered his Selected Poems which duly arrived and is sitting on the table next to me which is where it has sat since the day I took it out of its padded envelope. And this is a book I want to read. It’s not a book that I’ve agreed to review because I find it hard to turn down a free book. No, it’s a book that I’m genuinely interested in and I’ve not read it. My daughter bought Philip Larkin’s two novels … you know, I dread to think how long ago it was she bought me them … and they’re sitting in the middle of my to-read shelf and have done since my birthday or Xmas, whichever event they were gifted me on.

I like to think I’m an empathetic kind of guy. But here’s the thing: to be truly empathetic you need to know what the other person is going though and, let’s face it, most of us can only imagine what the rest of us are going through; it takes time to get to know someone. I imagine some of you work, some of you have families, many of you have physical limitations or mental problems, some of you likely have money worries or cars that won’t start in the mornings or spouses that don’t open up or maybe you’ve lost your job and are afraid you’re going to lose your home or the car that won’t start or the spouse who won’t talk and here I am asking you to sit down and pay attention to l’il ol’ me for two and a half thousand words as if anything I had to say really, really mattered in the grand scheme of things. And I realise—if Google Analytics is to be believed—that a great many of you will have given up well before this point which is a shame because those are the people I probably owe the biggest apology to for being so damnably long-winded.

But if you have got this far, here is your reward: I am sorry. Truly I am. I wish I could write little five hundred word long posts in nice short sentences with no big words surrounded by plenty of white space and I wish I wrote books you’d want to sit on the beach and get lost in. But I’m not that kind of guy. But what I’m mostly sorry about is that you and I live in a world where none of us have the time to get to know each other properly, to be able to be truly empathetic to the needs of our peers. I am the centre of my universe, as you are of yours. And the thing about parallel universes is that they never meet even though they appear as if they do in the distant future.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s been a couple of hours since I last cleared out Google Reader and I’ve another twenty-three … nope, sorry, there’s another one … twenty-four entries to read. One of them might be yours and if I only scan it and don’t comment, well, try and understand.


Nathaniel Lee said...

If it's any consolation, I'm already sick of hearing myself talk, too.

Jim Murdoch said...

Yes, Nathaniel, it’s a funny ol’ world we’re living in. Of course yours is one of those sites that I do tend to read purely because of the brevity of the posts even if I rarely comment. I know I should comment more but it’s like those comic strips I subscribe to--Garfield, Garfield Minus Garfield and Dilbert—I read them, smile and pass on forgetting within seconds what I’ve just read. Now I’m not saying that everything you or I write is necessarily going to be the kind of thing we’d want people to remember for the rest of their lives (especially when I have one of my periodical rants) but I think we’d all like people to stop and think about what they’ve just read every now and then. Poetry, of course, is the worst thing. Who reads poems online the way poems are supposed to be read? With a few exceptions most poems I chance across online are lucky if I devote sixty seconds to them, enough time to decide if I want to spend any more, and that’s unfair on those who’ve gone to the trouble of posting their work but then again I’m assuming that they write poem like me and not dashed the thing off in five minutes so they have something for a daily prompt of whatever. We may not view the world through pink-tinted glasses but I think most of us suffer from varying degrees of intellectual myopia; we see the world the way we imagine the world is. I have no idea about you. Not really. If someone was to ask me what I thought about you the first thing I’d think of is that I like you but if someone was to press me to explain why I like you I’d be embarrassed by my inability to defend my claim. What exactly is that sense based on? And it’s the same with quite a few people whose lives I know nothing, or next to nothing, about; in my head I have a mental picture of them that I like and assume that in reality that’s what they’re like. And then I see a few photos in Facebook and think: Oh, I never imagined he or she’d be like that.

I think on the whole, for me, the Internet is a bad thing. Again, I’m not talking about the Internet, I’m talking about how I see the Internet which is probably not how you, or anyone else come think of it, sees it. Five years ago I never gave my readers a second thought because, barring my wife and daughter, I had no readers; I hadn’t even sent away any poetry for years. I wrote what pleased me when it pleased me and that was about it. Now when I write it’s to someone, at least to the someones I can pretty much guarantee will read my blog. And that’s changed me. I struggled to finish my last book because, for the first time in my life, I felt the presence of an imagined future reader over my shoulder and that put me off. It’s what’s putting me off what I’m trying to work on just now. I know I shouldn’t complain. More people have read my writing now than ever before and some appear to be quite taken by it. That’s not to be sniffed at.

I suspect that a lot of people out there are no real clue what’s going on with anyone else with whom they interact online. I know you’re married, have a new kid, but I have no idea what life is like for you and your new kid. I don’t understand why people don’t want to review my books or why they’re not asking me to review their books; there have been a few recently where I expected an e-mail and nothing. Okay, a part of me is glad because I’m always bordering on being overrun by books but those I do do get done well; traditionally-published or self-published, everyone gets treated the same on my blog. So why have I not been asked? Not only do I not know what people are like online it also looks as if I don’t know what they think I’m like. Maybe they think I’m too snobby to consider their book. You may have wondered why I’ve not done your book. The main reason there is that’s it’s an ebook and I tend to forget I even own them. Also I think it might be on my Kindle and since I bought the tablet I rarely look at the Kindle. I intend get to it. Just don’t give up the ghost before I do.

Art Durkee said...

People have gone insane trying to outguess the audience. It's not worth it. As you know, barring requests and commissions, I continue to write what I write, ignoring any audience. I don't have one anyway, and I'm not really capable of thinking about who will read what I write, WHEN I am writing it.

I take your essay here half-jokingly because I don't really think it's a problem for you either, really. Ignoring whoever we imagine is looking over our shoulder is just a necessity of practice.

Jim Murdoch said...

I don’t think I’m trying to outguess my audience, Art, so much as get to grips with the Internet. I’m never averse to putting in a bit of work and I’ve spent a long time reading what the ‘experts’ say one ought to do to promote your work and gain an audience that sticks with you most of which involves not being a pushy, self-centred bugger and being genuine in your dealings with others. That doesn’t mean you can’t tell people when you’ve got a new book or whatever, just don’t ram it down their throats. And I think I do all that. I try and not have ulterior motives in my dealings with others but that doesn’t mean one can’t hope that people will rally round you in your hour of need. And some do. All I’d need do is write a post talking about how depressed I am and how I’m thinking about chucking it all in and learning how to use my DSLR instead and there’d be plenty of comments encouraging me not to quit but how often can you pull a stunt like that? The problem all of us have is that we’re working with what we imagine the people hiding behind these user names and avatars are like.

So, you’re right, I’m half-joking here but there’s also a serious point lurking in this article. We settle for so much less online that we’d ever do in the real world. We ‘friend’ people all the time and have completely devalued the notion of friendship so why should we be disappointed when these e-friends don’t behave like real-world-friends? Or when we don’t act like a true friend towards them? It cuts both ways. I try and spread myself too thinly and I don’t think it’s a good thing either. And I genuinely do feel guilty for not being more supportive of people but there’s only so much me to go round and, as there’s less than there used to be, I get used up a lot quicker than I’d like.

I think what the Internet has done for me is to show me that there are people out there who will connect with what I write. It’s not many but there are a few and I find I cannot not think about them when I write nowadays which is probably why I’m writing so little fiction and poetry. Or, to be more accurate, turning my nose up at everything I do write.

Ken Armstrong said...

I think this great post is only missing one thing - a conclusion at the end. I think you're probably getting to that conclusion in your own time, as you should.

You've got to read what you want to read, I reckon. You don't owe anybody anything at all. Ignore a few days worth of the Feedreader and read Heaney instead. See how it feels.

Gwil W said...

Jim, I've been thinking of writing a novelette. The very idea is madness. Please talk me out it.

ps- I've never met Jolie Angelina before. She knows how to dress.

Jim Murdoch said...

I read your comment earlier in the day, Ken, and my first thought was: What the hell does he mean? I thought I ended the piece rather well. So I’ve sat and thought about what you said and what I think you’re asking is: Now you’ve got all that off your chest what’re you going to do with the information? And, if indeed that is what you’re saying, that’s a very good question. In August I’ll have been blogging for five years. I’ve never celebrated anniversaries online, never mentioned when I got to one year or two or so many hundred posts but I think I might do one to mark five years of banging my head against a brick wall. Which means I need to start thinking about what I’m going to say now.

A part of me wants to jack it all in as so many others have before me. Just after I started posting one guy closed up shop; he went by the moniker ‘Grumpy Old Bookman’. In his last post, on Sunday November 25th 2007 he explained why: “[T]he only sensible thing to do, I feel, if the quart will demonstrably not fit into the pint pot, is to stop blogging altogether.” He was seventy-two at the time. I don’t think I’m ready to quit yet but I am wondering about the effectiveness of how I manage my time. Like him I have effectively retired from fulltime employment. I have no intention of explaining how I can afford this without sponging on the state but I can. Obviously, at seventy-two, Michael Allen, had also retired and this was what he noted: “I retired from full-time employment. After which, of course, I had all the time in the world. Ha! If you only knew. First law of the universe: everything takes longer than you think.” I’m finding that too. And it is of some concern to me because, like all of us, I only have a finite time left and as every day passes it’s a day less I have to do what needs to be done.

Carrie is in America this week and so I’ve been dipping into my stockpile of saved TV programmes. Tonight I watched yet another documentary about the far-from-camera-shy David Hockney (couldn’t remember his first name there and had to look him up) who’s seventy-four at the moment and, at the time the documentary was filmed, was preparing for an unprecedented one man exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts. The interviewer noted just how hard he was working now and unlike many other contemporary artists Hockney was quick to point out that the exhibition was all his own work, all painted or drawn with his own hands. Frankly I was jealous. He has the stamina of a man half his age whereas I feel I have the stamina one would expect him to have. So where next?

A while back I was blogging twice a week. I enjoyed it otherwise I wouldn’t have done it. When it began to become a bit of a burden I cut back to posting every five days. Now, or if not now then soon, I think I might cut back to once a week. The large body of work I’ve uploaded is now a decent landing platform for new readers. Occasionally I pop onto the Google Analytics Real-Time page. Just now there’s someone from Ankara reading one of my articles on Larkin; they searched for “passion is essentially and mercilessly human”. Two other people arrived while I was typing that last sentence. Likely none of the three will become regular visitors but that’s okay.

I think I also need to look at who I’m keeping company with. Keen to promote myself as widely as possible I’ve got in with a bad crowd, the ebook writers, and they’re a depressing bunch to be around. They're so up and jolly and going on about where they are in the Amazon charts and when the next cheque from Smashwords is due and I just don’t get them. I don’t get Stephen King either; the man’s a machine. Writing was never a job of work for me and I find that I don’t know how to turn it into one. Maybe I should work on non-fiction. I seem to be able to churn that stuff out.

What next? Don’t know. Something.

Jim Murdoch said...

I would read your novelette, Gwilliam, if you ever get round to writing it unless it involves vampire unicorns; I have a strict no tolerance policy there. My last two book were both supposed to be novellas. I can’t really explain how I could have thought that when I’d only written a few hundred words but I really thought it would take less words than it did to say what I ended up saying. So I wouldn’t be too quick to assume that 17,500 words (or less) will be enough. I expected my third novel to be about 50,000 words long and it ended up at 90,000 which I know is not long by most people’s standards but I consider it epic.

I actually have nothing against Jolie Angelina. I think she’s growing as an actress. Getting her to wear a t-shirt promoting my poetry collection was a bit tricky but it’s amazing what you can do with computers these days.

Ken Armstrong said...

You're right, of course, my comment wasn't phrased terribly well and you *did* end your piece very well. But you've got my gist all right. I think the bother lies in how many blogs you visit and, if I may be so bold, in how many books you read that are not of your choosing.

If all this weight on you resulted in you giving up blogging then I think that would be very sad. I honestly think the work you do here has great value and, if it were to be stopped because other, lesser, demands upon your time forced that... well, it would be sad.

(You were kind to me when I went from three posts a week to one, perhaps sensing that I was on the edge of packing it in. I don't think I ever was but the one post a week, with scatterings of lyrics in between, has worked well for me and I enjoy it without it being a burden to me.

Like you, I find the odd visitor comes to me via a Google search or some-such-thing and I love those. These are the people who have sought out what we do without any predisposition towards us. We never know when something written will find the exact home it was subliminally intended-for via the wonders of the Internet. It's a fun thing.

I see you as having enormous stamina in your writing. The length and depth of your posts, your reviews, your endless tour of other blogs, your amazing reading output. You could do *anything* in writing with that level of stamina. You would just have to focus it in the appropriate direction for a while.

I'm rambling, don't read too much into any of this. :)

Jim Murdoch said...

But that’s exactly the point, Ken! You see me one way and I see me in quite a different light. Neither, I suspect, are accurate representations of what I’m really like or capable of. I actually teared up when I read your comment (never a good sign, let’s blame it on me being maudlin since Carrie’s away and not an early sign of my next bout of depression which I worry about constantly) and got up to make a coffee not realising it was suddenly lunchtime; where did that morning go? I think of myself as a disorganised, inefficient, unproductive individual; a two-steps-forward-one-step-back kind of bloke. I read about these writers who believe passionately in what they’ve written and promote themselves constantly (where do they get the energy?) and yet I’ve allowed myself to get dragged down by the lack of interest in Milligan and Murphy; I’ve really not promoted it with the fame fervour that I did Living with the Truth.

But that’s not the worst of it. It’s the middle of May—almost halfway through the year—and I’ve written nothing. (Not true; I’ve written 4000 words of a new work of fiction but I have no idea where it’s going and can’t bear to look at it so it’s as good as nothing.) Four thousand words is nothing; I write longer blogs; I can write that many words in a day when I’m on a roll. I read Facebook entries every day about all these writers writing away posting their latest word counts and trying to drum up enthusiasm for their latest ebook and it just sucks the life out of me. I feel guilty. I feel I’m misrepresenting myself as a writer; I’m not a writer, I’m a wroter.

I don’t just get the odd visitor coming to me through Google, Ken, I get hundreds upon hundreds; the vast majority of my readers find me via it. I’ve followed the ‘rules’ but my regular followers only increase at a snail’s pace. Five years and I’ve only just managed to pass the 200 mark. If I were only to visit sites that interested me and only read books that interested me I might be happier because I’d only be reading about six blogs a week but the whole point of being on the Internet is to make and help friends who, in turn, will help you out sometime down the line. I’m not naïve. I don’t wear pink-tinted glasses. It is possible to be a decent person without being completely altruistic. I don’t do things for other people simply so they’ll support me in the months to come but that doesn’t mean I’m not puzzled when they don’t support me. This is perhaps because I have an inflated sense of my own worth which is an odd thing to own up to having considering how negative I am about myself most of the time.

Basically I’m an old-fashioned guy. I like technology and think the Internet is a great resource but I’m also an antisocial pig. I’m completely ill-equipped to be the kind of writer that succeeds in this world, someone like Ian Rankin who is camera-friendly and always ready with a quip of an anecdote. I never go out of the house if I don’t have to. So I have all this time because what little housework there is takes no time at all and we’re not exactly house-proud and yet I get so little done. Because I’m slow. Because I have no stamina. I’ve been writing this comment since noon. I expect I’ll finish and post it by one; that’s an hour gone: pfft!

My health—and Carrie’s too—is a worry. I had thought I’d recovered from my breakdown a while back but since December—Carrie’s last trip to the States—the brain fog has returned with a vengeance along with constant headaches and I can go for days without a clear spell. I was talking to Carrie on the phone last night and I said to her: “If only I could think straight I could get so much work done.” But I can’t. She supports me as much as she can but she has her own problems: chronic pain, malaise and the side-effects from a shelfful of medications. But without her I doubt I would have got anything into print.

I appreciate your encouragement and support, Ken. We each do what we can to carry the burdens of others but every man has to shoulder his own load.

Ken Armstrong said...

It's hard, mate. And when the other half is away, it's harder still. I know this myself. It's cool to play at being a tough literary island but it's much easier when your favorite person is with you to give warmth and companionship and... proximity.

Things get magnified when the favorite person is away. Don't be too hard on yourself, particularly in the period of separation.

None of us are doing much good, really. I wish I was producing more and pushing myself more - I'm doing neither. There's a song by Colin Hay called 'Waiting for my real life to begin'. I sometimes think that sums me up. I try to push to make it begin but it's never going to happen now. Someone down the line, there's an adjustment coming and it may not be an easy one.

Hah! A cheery fecker for your Sunday afternoon, me. :) Mind yourself. You're a great writer, in my book, and doesn't mean you have to do it every day.

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