No, this is not a political post. Regardless of what may be kicking off in the political arena, this is a writing post. Since I don’t work at weekends, by and large choosing to mimic the typical working week (Monday to Friday, 9-5ish) by Monday my brain is fizzing with ideas and I am ready to hit the page running. I write my best poems – or start them – on a Monday; I have my brightest ideas on a Monday. The result can be that Tuesdays are a little flat. I pick up on Wednesdays and sometimes go to perform at Sound Cafe too; then Thursdays are not too bad but by Friday afternoon I’m flagging and ready for the weekend again.
And there’s the rub: the work ethic. The work ethic has its uses. It’s useful for getting me to my desk in the morning and back to it after lunch. It’s useful for getting me off Facebook and for dealing with distractions. But there it’s usefulness ends. I don’t need it to be nagging at me about how many hours I’ve done today or what I have actually achieved; because in theory although I do around eight hours, it is impossible to write (poetry at least) for that long, because it is so intense. Actually I find prose almost as intense, so I tend to do it in short bursts. But when I used to add up my hours and find that I’d only done 4 hrs of laptop-time or whatever, I’d feel discouraged. I’d feel I wasn’t working hard enough.
But what is work, anyway? In the field of ordinary employment work is fairly well-defined as tasks set by your employer (or, if you’re self-employed, by the needs of your business). But how do you define it in the creative sphere? Is it only work if I produce something that can be sold? If I just fiddle around with ideas or stare into space or go for a walk, is that work? Doing a cryptic crossword may not look like work but it helps my poetry enormously as it’s all about splitting words up: it’s about what they sound like and look like; how they live, move and have their being. Going for a walk may not look like work but if I’ve been staring at a blank page for hours it can free up the mind and generate ideas. Lots of activities – colouring, reading, listening to the radio, even sometimes looking at Facebook – can stimulate the mind. And there’s the thing. Creativity is sometimes like the wool-shop in Alice. If you look directly at the thing you want to write, the mind goes blank, just like the shelves in the shop when Alice looks at them. But if you look away; if you distract the conscious mind by ostensibly doing something else, the shelves become packed again.
It’s a hell of a job trying to understand this process, but anyone who’s creative will recognise it. And one thing I can really do without is the work ethic nagging at me and telling me I’m not really working or I haven’t done enough.
So the work ethic can **** right off.
I don’t tend to read a lot during the day but as bedtime reading I’m into Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. At the moment I can’t decide whether it’s a corny rehash of the books or an exciting new venture. Watch this space…