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

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Where do all these decades go?


Okay so that’s me. I’m taking my annual break. No more from me until 2011. Twenty-eleven – that still sounds so sci-fi to me. As a kid growing up in Scotland in the sixties the 21st century was so far away. That was Gerry-Anderson-land. And now we’re here, in fact that’s another decade done and dusted. When did that happen?

There will be some changes with The Truth About Lies when I return in January however. As regular readers will know I fell sick about four years ago (burnout) and – much to my irritation – I did not bounce back with my usual . . . er, bounciness. I’m all better now – have been for about nine months – but things have not quite got back to what passed for normal in my life. For starters I’m now writing a twice-weekly blog which although it kept me sane and gave my life purpose while I was ill now takes up far too much of my time. I’ve tried to get back into my current novel and although I have made significant progress (a complete rewrite of the 23000 words I’d already written plus an additional 13000 words) to be blunt it’s dragging on. I need to be done with it and start thinking about other things.

I’m not a quick writer – no book a year from this guy – and so when I start a new project I fully expect to spend several years in that particular universe. Because of ill health this one has taken longer than I expected but that’s not been a bad thing. The shape of the piece has changed substantially since I first conceived of it and although it’s less literary than I’d hoped the new approach suits the material. But I’m afraid I’ll start to lose momentum if I don’t dedicate a substantial chunk of my time to finishing it and so that is what I’m going to do. There, I’ve said it.

So, from January on expect only one post a week from me. I still have a small stockpile which needs to get used up and that will give me about three months’ peace before I need to think about writing new ones. I will, however, try to keep up with the review copies I’m sent which will probably mean that the site will get a little book review heavy for a while. I may also make an exception for the occasional Aggie and Shuggie if I get any more reviews myself; they don’t take long to write.

I won’t disappear from the blogosphere entirely but I’m going to be a lot stricter with my time and so if I don’t comment quite as much as I used to on other people’s sites then I apologise in advance. I’ve started to poke my nose out of my hole on Facebook so if you’ve not befriended me there please do. Here’s a link. It will enable wee touches so you know I’ve not forgotten you.

In the meantime I’d just like to wish all my readers a very Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year when it comes. Fill up over the holidays: it looks like 2011 might be a lean one. Now, bugger off and leave me alone.


Kass said...

Love that picture. I never realized what elegant hands you have.

I admire your discipline and look forward to your new novel.

...begrudgingly buggering off -

Marion McCready said...

How on earth did you do that picture? It's brilliant! Hope you and Carrie have a lovely Christmas and New Year :)

Gwil W said...

Have a happy Hogmanay wee Jim!

Jim Murdoch said...

I’m afraid I do not have elegant hands, Kass, they came with the photo. I actually have rather small hands. I can reach and octave on a keyboard but not much more. I’m actually nowhere near as disciplined as you imagine. If I was I would have got a grip of myself and be done and dusted now.

Marion, have a look at 25+ Really Cool Online Photo Manipulation Services. Not sure which one I used to get this – it was months ago I created the image – but they were fun to play with.

And, Gwilym, the same to you. I usually stay up for ‘the bells’ on Hogmanay but not being much of a drinker I never raise a glass. We’ve got into the habit of watching Jools Holland's Hootenanny and then going to bed. I kinda miss Scotch and Rye but since Ricky Fulton’s death Scottish Television hasn’t really managed to fill the gap. The highlight was always the miserable Rev I M Jolly’s ‘Late Call’. He first appeared in 1978 and every year until 1992. There are a good few on YouTube but here’s the first appearance, a later one and the original sketch on which he modelled Jolly. Also a tribute by Scotland’s First Minister for a recent Children in Need appeal in which he does a no bad impression all things considering.

Art Durkee said...

Happy Holidaze, and happy immersion in writing. Speaking as a perennial distraction, or so some of my friends tell me, I'll do my best to keep posting things on my own that will get your attention. But if you are successfully focused and non-distractable that will be no bad thing, and I'm sure we won't take it personally. Occasional vacations are no bad thing, either.


Poet Hound said...

Dear Jim,
I think it's great to hear you are going to devote more time to your novel than to your blog, I should be doing the same. I have also asked you to "friend" me on Facebook, so I hope you'll accept. Happy Holidays!
Paula Cary

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...


To tell you the truth, I'll be missing your frequent and always interesting posts but I think your decision is a wise one. Have a creative 2011!

Jim Murdoch said...

Thank you, Art, and you too. I have time budgeted to read blogs so you won’t be forgotten. I simply can’t do everything I need to to the standard I want with the time I have. My wife tells me I have nothing but time and in one respect that’s true but I’m finding that I don’t have the stamina I used to have (or thought I had if I’m being honest) and I can just imagine going back to my doctor suffering from burnout when I’m officially still sick. It is hard not pushing myself – a part of me feels like I’m being lazy and wasting time watching too much TV – but I get crabby when I try to do too much and that’s not good either.

Paula we are now friends on Facebook. I’m not quite sure yet what to do with it but I faithfully check the entries every morning when I get up and see if there’s something sensible or at least witty I can add to some of them. My biggest problems is long-windedness. I ‘liked’ one of your notes earlier this morning because I found myself going on and on in my head about how the Internet demands so much of our time and what do we get in return? I think that’s what’s been getting me a bit about my blog, comparing the effort put in to the various returns.

And, Vazambam, it won’t be forever. But it is necessary. If I just wrote little 500-word posts then it’d be fine but even when I’m at my best it takes an entire working day to write each post and usually longer and the real problem is that I’m running out of articles that I can just rattle down in a day; they need to be researched and even though I enjoy it – it makes up for my lack of education – you can’t rush it and keep standards high.

Anonymous said...

Jim - as decades go - I'm hoping that this past one won't be able to hold a candle to the next. I am not a big fan of nostalgia but I do like to look back. . . and I decided to read your last post of 2009 today. In it you wrote, 'where are all the flying cars. . .?' A wonderful line if ever there was one. So many of us grew up that way didn't we? Science and technology was going to be the answer.

I'm looking forward to the novel - I've stashed away a few dollars in the cookie jar - and am hoping that 2011 will be when I can spend it.

I'm still afraid of facebook - but - I used to be afraid to leave comments too - and look at me now! Once the phacebookfobia disapears, I'll phriend and phollow and whatever else.

Have a happy and healthy Christmas and New Year

Jim Murdoch said...

And don’t forget the tinfoil suits, Koe. Am I disappointed with the future? It’s certainly not as glamorous as the TV said it would be but then it’s not as bad either. World War III hasn’t happened yet and we’re not living in a dystopia although I suppose there will be those who might argue that we are. The one thing that did come true was the personal computer and that is something I am grateful for, to be able to sit in my living room and have access to a world’s worth of knowledge.

I wouldn’t rush to join Facebook. I still question how beneficial I’m going to find it in the long term but it is an effective of reminding people I still exist, those who check it faithfully.

Anyway our tree is up, the pressies are all wrapped and under said tree (apart from the ones from the Americans who probably all placed their orders too late) and my daughter has just confirmed she’ll be over after work on Friday so that’s when we’re having Xmas this year – we’ve always treated it as something of a moveable feast.

You have a nice time whenever it comes for you too.

Elisabeth said...

I came over here deliberately on Christmas Eve to wish you a happy one, Jim, and Carrie, too. Strange that I should imagine I know her too.

I'll join you on Face book as well.

You're like me, I imagine, Jim. Once you get stuck into writing to someone you're interested in you can't stop, but stop you must, at least for a time. Your book is too important. In the meantime, best wishes and seasons greetings to you and yours. have a lovely break.

Jim Murdoch said...

And a very happy Christmas to you too, Lis. I read over what I’d written a few days back and it’s actually not too bad. What I’ve started to see is a distinct personality to the protagonist, Jennifer, but there are a few things that don’t quite add up that need to be tweaked or explained. One of the problems many writers come across I find is that their characters can be a bit too neat. They’re characters and never break out of character whereas people do, they do things that surprise not only others but themselves too. What does it mean, ‘do something out of character’? We use the expression all the time but as usual it’s one of those terms that we thing we understand and probably don’t.

I’ve been reading a lot about personality disorders over the last few days. It’s striking how much material there is that treats personality pathologically and how little talks about what a normal personality actually is. The assumption almost is that there’s something wrong with everyone and it’s just a matter of working out what. Looking at the criteria laid down in DSM-4 Jennifer has a schizoid style personality. I am actually struck by just how many of the boxes I can tick for her but I’m not sure I like the term ‘disorder’ because I don’t see her as sick besides when DSM-5 comes out it looks like Schizoid Personality Disorder will be no more so what will she be then?

I’ve been reading a book by Steven Reiss called The Normal Personality: a new way of thinking about people which although it does not suggest that no one is mentally starts from the premise that many people who at the moment might easily be categorised as such are not ill – they’re simply being themselves. In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs there is a pecking order that people need to work their way up before they become a fully actualised individual. Reiss suggests that what makes up a normal personality is something similar, a list of sixteen things that people can desire but to varying degrees. Everyone desire food but not everyone finds comfort in eating; a tidy person is not a better person than an untidy one, and so on and so forth. But an untidy person can be made to feel inferior.

Why this interests me is because of how Jen fails to react to a) the death of her father according to conventional wisdom regarding the process of grief and b) the realisation that with the money he has left her she can now accommodate her stronger desires, the main one being her love of solitude. I’ve also been reading a lot on the forum which is fascinating although I feel there are more wannabe-schizoids there than by-the-book-ones. Many of these people wear their schizoid badges with actual pride and I can honestly see them rising up and demanding the return of SPD because the label has become so much of their identity; if they’re not schizoid what are they?

Jen does not know she has schizoid traits. She realises she’s introverted but that’s about the only technical term she’s likely to use. All her other characteristics she’d explain away as people do. She lacks social skills because she has a high tolerance (probably not the right word) for solitude; it’s only common sense that if she spends most of her time alone (which she does as a housewife) that she might be lacking in other areas.

Anyway, I didn’t mean to go on. I just thought I’d let you know where my head is at at the moment. My daughter and her partner will be here in about three hours and I’ll have to get Carrie up from her nap soon. They have three Christmases to fit in – us, her mum, his parents – so we’re going first this year which is fine by me.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to stop by one more time and wish you and your family a merry christmas. . .

Elisabeth said...

Our lot arrive in an hour or so, Jim, and then we're up for family tradition of gift giving and then off to friends whom we share Christmas lunch with every year.

At the end of the day depending on how much energy I have left, I may visit my mother who is unwell. I saw her already for Christmas a couple of days ago, when she had planned to go to one of my brothers' places for Christmas, but all that's changed and she's had to stay home in her retirement village, were she's well cared for but without family unless one or other of us visit.

Funny you should write in such detail about our next novel. I'm inclined to agree with the notion tat normal is ideal that no one actually reaches and we all have our peculiarities that can be pathologised into mental illness or left alone as aspects of our personalities. all this of course is subject to degree. I'm also of the view that we all share a propensity for madness. As far as I'm concerned none of us are exempt but we don't necessarily go mad, unless a hole constellation of things come together. I hate the us versus them attitude that many people adopt towards mental health One person's madness can also be a rich source of creativity.

I dreamed about you this morning, triggered no doubt by this post. In my dream I am on a bus travelling to a conference with you. I know it is you from the photo on your profile, the same thick red beard, the same balding head, the same eyes.
‘I saw you on the television,' I say. 'They put up an advertisement encouraging people to visit your blog.'
‘It’s because of my book,’ you say. 'To promote the book they promote the blog.'

‘You’ll have hundreds of hits after this,’I say.
You are unperturbed. You do not blog for hits, you blog for conversation.

Jim Murdoch said...

That wasn’t me talking in detail, Lis, that was me just prattling on about what’s running though my head at the moment. I talked to my daughter a bit when she came over – she’s just finished the fourth year of a part-time Degree in Psychology – but she didn’t even know what DSM-4 was nor schizoid personality disorder so we talked more about OCD (another one in the DSM-5 cull) which she does know well because she had a boyfriend for a few years whose life was quite debilitated by the condition. OCD defined his life in much the same way as it seems to affect some of the schizoids on the forum I was reading; if that label is taken away from then it almost seems as if a major part of their identity will be ripped away from them too. When I first conceived Jennifer she was a cardboard-daughter, an amalgam of my own daughter and me, but as I’ve rewritten her she’s become more her own person although to be fair she still has her roots based in the two of us. Like Jonathan Payne Jen is an exaggeration as opposed to a caricature.

Anyway, enough about that for just now. Our Christmas is done and dusted too. As always we gave too many pressies but we kept the values of the individual items down a bit. I used to go quite over the top when the two of us were working but then again I only have the one kid. They both got excited about my Kindle – she’s been thinking about getting one – and so we spent a while talking about the pluses and minuses; my main gripe is its navigation tools, it isn’t really built for working with textbooks which is all I’ve been reading on it. Today Carrie and I’ll just clear up the mess from last night, get the flat back in some semblance of order and veg out with the TV. Hope things went well with you and we’ll talk again soon.

And the same goes for you, Koe, thanks for dropping by again.

Conda Douglas said...

Great pic and a great season to you!

Crafty Green Poet said...

Well good luck with your novel, congratulations on your time management skills too! Happy Hogmanay when it comes!

Dave King said...

You do so have elegant hands - in that picture you do, which we all agree is brilliant.

I can understand your thinking re the blog. I, too, have found it very time consuming, but in my case very helpful to my writing. I for one shall miss your 2 blogs a week, but will look forward to the extra reviews.

Take care and stay well - that's the first priority - and have an absolutely wonderful Hogmanay - hope the two are not incompatable! - and see you around in what I hope will be a new year to meet all your hopes for it.

Jim Murdoch said...

Well, Crafty Green Poet, I’ve just worked out how I think the book will end. For years – literally – I’ve not known where all of this was leading up to and then at 2 o’clock in the morning on Boxing Day a solution finally popped into my head, I got up, scribbled it on a Post-it note and went back to bed. Now all I’ve got to do is write the thing.

I don’t ever do much on Hogmanay, Dave. We do tend to stay up for the bells but I don’t take a drink. It wasn’t something I grew up with and I’m not much of a drinker at the best of time. I honestly couldn’t tell you the last time I even had a drink. I do have to say I feel a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders since I decided to cut back my posts and apart from touching base like this I’ve only been thinking about my book. This is the way I used to do it, get totally absorbed in the project so that I basically thought of nothing else. I sit watching TV with Carrie and every now and then I’ll get up and scribble a sentence or two on my pad, something some character has said that I think I can use in the book usually taken completely out of context. Of course by the time I get done editing you’d never be able to pick it out. In Living with the Truth there’s a sentence Kirk says in an old Star Trek episode somewhere. I try to find it every now and then but it’s pretty buried now.

The only thing that’s holding me back a bit just now is the cold. The flat’s not cold, it’s actually the very opposite, too hot and all I want to do is sleep except when it’s time to go to bed when I lie awake going over my novel which is not exactly conducive to dosing off and so that’s when I get up and try and write. By then the place is starting to cool down.

Anonymous said...

All power to the creative work, Jim. I'm glad that you'll still be in evidence, albeit less frequently. If I have any notion of a (strictly secular) sanctum sanctorum of blogs then you would be of its presence. So I'll have to settle for a somewhat diminished presence in 2011.

All the very best for the upcoming year.

Rachel Cotterill said...

I hope you have a great holiday break - take as much time to recharge as you need, the blogosphere will still be here when you get back! :)

Jim Murdoch said...

Doing quite well so far, thanks, Dick. Nice to have the space to devote myself to this properly. Starting to feel more like a real writer again. It won't be all of 2011 that I go quiet, a few weeks I expect. Anyway the same to you. You've not had a bad 2010 writing-wise - let's hope it flows into 2011.

And, Rachel, thank you - you too - but I'm not so much recharging as refocusing. I write about 1000 words a day on average and have been working at that rate for a long time now. The problem is most of my blogs are about 3000+ words long so that doesn't leave a lot of time for real writing although when I'm on form I can crank out 3000 words in a day. I'm not sure what 2011 holds out for me. I never bother my backside with New Year's resolutions but I do feel change in the wind.

Unknown said...

"The Truth About Lies" has been included in this weeks A Sunday Drive. I hope this helps to attract even more new visitors here.

P.S.: I have also noticed great discrepancies in my perception of time. For each day seems to drag on and on, and yet, a month is gone in the blink of an eye. Years go by even faster, but the end of my miseries in this world seems so very far away.

Jim Murdoch said...

Thanks for the plug, FishHawk. It's not my most typical post you've picked but hopefully any potential readers with have a look through my archive. And, yes, time. I simply cannot believe how quickly it passes these days. Makes no sense whatsoever. I would have thought with the speed I lived my life when I was a kid that I would have expected the opposite to be the case but that's not how it's panning out. Still, no point moaning about it - moaning takes up precious time I simply can't afford to waste.

Ken Armstrong said...

Happy New Year and good look with the new regime.

I pushed hard last year and finished my first book. I may never see the light of day (it may) but the 'getting the damn thing done' has been cathartic.

Thanks for so many visits to my place. If that ever tails off, I will fully understand. The most important thing, for us types, is that we get our writing done.

Jim Murdoch said...

Happy New Year to you too, Ken. I'm pleased you've got that first book under your belt. It feels good. Let it lie for a while and then go back to it. It needs time to settle. Then a good polish and you'll be able to see what's what once you've gained distance and some perspective.

There are certain sites that I will always visit no matter what and you can count yours as one of them. The writing will get done. It is getting done. I'm keeping up my 1000 words a day target apart from yesterday when I wrote 50 but they were 50 hard words, a single paragrapgh in fact and most of the day was spent in research. I have another 150 to do today after tea if possible but I'm not obsessive about it. I'm getting to the stage I need to import a fresh copy into my Kindle and reread it from scratch again which will mean more editing before I can continue.

I do a lot of rereading when I write. I really expect my whole book to read like one long sentence from start to finish and so I read until I hit a bump, smooth it out and then read on until wherever I've got to at which point I write a bit more and then go back and read up to that new point. Carrie goes to the States in a couple of weeks and so I'll have a fortnight to myself which is always a help because it means I can work at odd hours. My plan is to be done by the time she comes back so I can give her a copy to read. Then I'll see what I need to fix but the odds are I'll stick it in the proverbial drawer after that for a few months and work on something else for a while.

Ping services