Writing and Wintering
Posted on August 28, 2017
Finally, we are in the final week of Winter. In Victoria, it’s likely that no one will let the weather in on that, but in my back yard, the magnolias are blooming, along with the almond and slowly, the seasons turn.
I have hardly been present here. What I have been doing is writing, and getting through this wintering.
I am halfway through the editing process of the second draft of my book, a process that has involved slashing eight thousand words so far, mostly from the first chapters, those leaps of imagination that it took to get the the whole thing off the ground. I am finding that it is a useful and a thoughtful thing, having taken two years to complete the first draft, with very little looking back, to revisit now, especially after a year of studying writing and literature at university. I hear my writing tutor in my ear as I edit,
‘Precision and immediacy’, and I cut or rewrite accordingly. I have learned the meaning of kill your darlings. The story is much stronger as a result, and by the time this draft is done, I will be ready to let a few readers take a look and identify what works and doesn’t work for them as readers.
I have been writing essays on creativity as well as on literary texts, writing poems and ideas for short stories and another book. I have been reading, for university mostly. It has been a pleasure to write on and study Dorothy Porter’s The Monkey’s Mask, Sylvia Plath’s Ariel and Ted Hughe’s Birthday Letters. It is a privilege and a pleasure to not just read these volumes of poems, all of which I have owned or read before, but to immerse myself in them for study, and in doing so, I learn more and more about the real craft and mechanics of writing. It is a useful thing to learn while I am writing the second draft of my book. I have also been writing on Nick Cave and the impact of grief on his body of work, which led me to thoughts on writing and creativity by Auden, Lorca and Cixous. I love the paths that study takes me down, and this second time around return to study in middle age holds so much more value to me than it did when I was young.
In the background, overshadowing everything else this year, has been the fact of my grandfather’s dying. Winter has been the season of his suffering and wasting decline. His cancer has been a slow burning agony, and the nurses say that it is his enormous will that keeps him alive. Each time that we visit, we wonder if it will be the last time, and think that, for his sake, the end would be merciful, but it is hard to think that, when the other half of your very heart just wants him to be here forever, because when he gone, you will never see his kind eyes again. I continue to write poems about him, and they carry me back to that other dying, the very different deaths of my father and brother, so many years ago.
What have you been reading, or writing or just enjoying? Will you be happy to see the back of winter?