Present (and Future?) Tense

Life as an artist is one headache after another.  Just when you think you’ve got things sorted, just when you have a plan, it all goes horribly wrong and like walking through treacle there comes a point where you Can’t Do It Any More.  I woke up this morning around five with a horrible headache and a Quasimodo shoulder up by my left ear (fortunately it was the left shoulder, not the right, ho ho: my left arm is my writing arm, so it’s logical.)  I took a couple of paracetamol and went back to sleep but the headache hovered over my pillow like a bad angel and clobbered me as soon as I woke.  It’s a mysterious thing how our muscles and joints express internal realities: I was talking the other day to someone who has a very tense working life and is now plagued by backache.  I rarely have backache: for me, tension is usually expressed in the neck and shoulders giving me headaches which I interpret as thoughts wanting to reach the brain but being prevented (if you think the brain is the only centre of awareness I would take issue with you: I think each part of the body is a centre of a particular kind of awareness.)  Only if I’m extra-specially tense do I get backaches and even more rarely, stomach aches.

How to engage with society is a big problem for most artists.  Some, like C P Snow, are lucky enough to fit in quite nicely and be able not only to hold down a job and write but also to write about that job (Snow was by turns a barrister, an academic and a civil servant who gave us the phrases ‘corridors of power’ and ‘the two cultures’.)  Then again, he never had to vacuum the sitting-room or run to Sainsbury’s for more marge.*  But for most of us fitting in – which means at the very least the financial imperative to work, and therefore to tick whatever educational and social boxes will persuade someone to hire you – is as problematic as it was for Larkin; ** and even when you are able to write full-time, there’s the problem of getting published.  And that’s a whole-nother way of fitting in (or not.)  When you write full-time the question is refined.  No longer do I ask myself which jobs I am suited for and would be able to do without going off my chump: now, the question is, how far do I write what publishers want (insofar as I know what that is) and how far do I write like myself (insofar as I can tell what that is)?  It’s a constant juggle: if you go too far in the direction of publishers you may be successful but at the cost of ignoring your own uniqueness; if you go too far the other way you risk never being published.  But maybe, just maybe – there’s a third option, which is that in truly being yourself you may produce something publishers didn’t know they wanted but actually really do.

I’ve blogged about C P Snow a few times.  Here’s one of the posts.

*They probably had butter anyway

** For me the problem was not only getting work but keeping it: I’ve had jobs which nearly sent me off my chump with boredom and other jobs where the work wasn’t so bad but I couldn’t fit in socially – and that seemed to be just as important.

Kirk out

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6 thoughts on “Present (and Future?) Tense

  1. Hi Sarada – your link to the CP Snow post doesn’t work. It opens up a write-a-new-post-on-my-own-blog window for me. When I try it in a different browser (one I don’t use for WP) it asks me to log in. It’s OK to delete this when you’ve sorted it.
    I’ve blogged about CP Snow too (and Larkin). I’ve chuckled at the Snow-Leavis argument ever since I first came across it. “Snow is of a course a …. no I can’t say that, he isn’t. Snow thinks of himself as a novelist … “

      1. You’ve started me off now: I’ve got so many thoughts I’ll have to put them in another blog post..

      2. The URL for your C P Snow post (assuming this is the one you intended) is https://lizardyoga.wordpress.com/tag/james-joyce-and-cp-snow/ which should work for everyone. I think that, because you were logged in when you pasted the link, it gave a link to your WordPress account pages, which then wants to log people in.

        My post on Snow is https://www.taskerdunham.com/2017/11/the-day-we-saw-queen-mary-sail.html
        The Larkin one is https://www.taskerdunham.com/2015/06/philip-larkins-foot.html – it’s rather silly but I enjoyed writing it.

        Thanks for asking.

      3. Thanks for those. That wasn’t the post on Snow I wanted but I’ve changed the link now anyway so it should work. I’ll check yours out

  2. Hey loved your blog. I too love books and hope we can share our passion for books with eachother. Followed you. I am new here so plz visit my blog and let me know your thoughts 😄😄

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