Coincidence? I Think Note!

Since moving to Loughborough and not being within spitting distance of Jak’s stationers (http://www.jakstationers.co.uk) I have become a habituee of The Works where, once inside its atlas-strewn portals I head straight for the notebook section.  I generally use three sizes of notebook: A4 for general writing/diary stuff; A5 for poetry and novel notes and A6 for what I laughingly call my handbag (a handbag?)

IMG_0457[1]

which serves for writing down passing thoughts while I’m Out and About.

And I know this is going to sound odd but it does actually happen: that sometimes when I’m nearing the end of a notebook I will have certain thoughts.  I might be feeling discouraged (‘what’s the point of clogging up the place with yet another notebook?’) or on the other hand I might be feeling like flaunting myself: and when I sidle up to the notebook shelf in the works I can usually find something that fits the bill.  For example, this peacock notebook

IMG_0458[1]

came to me when I was feeling like displaying my prose talents to the world, and the ‘bike’ notebook

IMG_0461[1]

came when I was feeling like giving up.  And yesterday I needed a new A4 notebook and what did I find?  This one

IMG_0463[1]

which was very serendipitous as I’d been having thoughts along precisely those lines, to whit:

the average is the enemy of the good

the good is the enemy of the best,

but the perfect is the enemy of all.

There is no such thing as the perfect work, and perfectionism is the enemy of anyone trying to produce art.

Kirk out

PS I’m linking here to Brian’s article on a similar theme:

https://bmhonline.wordpress.com/2018/04/13/the-routine-of-writing-blogging-and-busy-lives/

 

Advertisements

Tired of Brexit? Just Breathe – and Take Back Control!

It’s a long time since I’ve blogged about yoga.  Back in the day, I was posting about some yoga technique or philosophy on a weekly basis, but since I’ve stopped teaching the writing has taken over and now, when I’m asked to say what this blog is about, it’s hard to answer.  The tagline is ‘life and thoughts of a self-underemployed writer,’ and I guess that’s as good a description as any, though I’m not sure I’m ‘underemployed’ any more as I work basically office hours, 9-5-ish, Monday to Friday.  I’ve also got over the tendency to consider what I do as ‘not validated’ unless it is published: when you first start to write it’s very hard to justify the time spent doing it, and if years go by and you publish nothing that feeling can become almost unbearable.

The ultimate validation is to find your authentic voice.  I’m not saying publication doesn’t matter but I think it’s more likely to come once you discover your true voice rather than striving to be a copy of something else.  Still, it’s a loooooooooooong process: like Miles Davis said, it takes a long time to sound like yourself:

https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/783321-man-sometimes-it-takes-you-a-long-time-to-sound

None of which, I now realise, has much to do with the title; as I see that I’ve written several paragraphs very much not about breathing.  I have problems with breathing, as do a lot of people: I have asthma and rhinitis (like hay fever only not seasonal) and although I don’t often get a full-blown asthma attack I can feel short of breath sometimes.  The rhinitis is more of a pain really, consisting of a blocked and runny nose and frequent sneezing.  But hey ho – it could be worse.  I could have leprosy or syphilis.  I could be in a wheelchair having to prove to ATOS every couple of months that my amputated legs are still amputated and haven’t grown back.

So: what can I say about yoga breathing?  I have written essays on it; entire books have been devoted to the subject – but for me the most exciting thing about working with the breath is that it gives you control.  You want to take back control?  Learn to breathe and you can control your heart-rate and blood pressure.  You can slow down your thoughts and calm your emotions.  Stuck in a traffic jam?  Cut up by some arse in a BMW?  Been nice to someone who was rude in return?  All these things tend to raise the blood pressure and agitate the mind, and doing something so simple as merely focussing on the breath can really help.  Try some of these ideas:

https://lizardyoga.wordpress.com/2010/06/10/yoga-practice-of-the-day/

https://lizardyoga.wordpress.com/2010/07/11/yoga-practice-of-the-day-energising/

https://lizardyoga.wordpress.com/2010/07/16/yoga-practice-of-the-day-strength-and-serenity-when-feeling-under-attack/

Just breathe – it really is better than Brexit.

Kirk out

Death of the Novel: Reports Greatly Exaggerated?

There has been a furore of late about comments by Will Self on the death of the novel: or, to be precise, on the death of literary fiction.  As anyone can see, certain types of novel are flourishing: fantasy (Philip Pullman, J K Rowling), Sci-Fi (can I mention ‘Replicas’ and the Hugo Prize once more here?https://amzn.to/2IygeeB) crime (‘Girl on Something Somewhere’) and soft porn (you know which) are clearly selling well.  But there’s an argument that TV box sets have replaced narrative; and whilst it’s true that we are living in a golden age of TV drama (I’m glued to ‘The Assassination of Gianni Versace’ right now) some of those same box sets are based on novels and sales of said novels go up when the series are aired.  Examples include Vera, Game of Thrones, Poldark and of course Sherlock, which caused me to take out and re-read some of Conan Doyle’s stories and relate them to the TV ‘updates’.  That’s not to mention all the literary classics which get box-setted * every few years, such as The Forsyte Saga and anything by Dickens or Austen.  * OMG what a terrible compound verb!

Will Self may have a point, though I suspect pundits have been predicting the novel’s demise ever since it was born.  Like a sickly baby – like Stephen Hawking as soon as he was diagnosed – people have been expecting LitFic to pop its clogs for ever, yet valiantly it carries on, like a bee who doesn’t know that it can’t fly.  Or like Snoopy who doesn’t know that the world is too miserable for him to be dancing:

https://bit.ly/2GFYnlh

The most recent argument for the demise of the novel is the decrease in our attention spans.  It’s a fair point; we have so many distractions now that to sit for several hours with a novel is much more difficult than it used to be.  Then there’s online publishing and self-publishing, plus the recession – all leading to the decline in traditional outlets.

I have a dream (oo!  Did you hear about Martin Luther King’s granddaughter saying she had a dream that ‘enough is enough’ for guns?  Terrific:

https://www.cbsnews.com/video/yolanda-renee-king-mlks-granddaughter-enough-is-enough/

Anyway – I have a dream.  It’s not the same order of dream but it’s a dream nevertheless, that somehow the future lies in the oral tradition.  I am convinced that we have to go back to our oral roots: spoken word is already massively popular, especially with young people, because it’s the antidote to an automated, virtual world.  It is direct and personal, it is up-front and face to face.  It’s healthy too, as Michael Rosen says in this article:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/may/09/performance-poetry-turner-prize-judges-spoken-word

So now we need to do for prose what performance has done for poetry.  I don’t mean endless readings; of course a novel can’t be performed in the way that a poem can.  But if Dickens did it, so can we; and in my mind there is a stage where I will perform parts of novels along with poetry.

Anyway, here are some of Will Self’s musings:

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/may/02/will-self-novel-dead-literary-fiction

and here are some counter-arguments:

http://theconversation.com/will-self-why-his-report-on-the-death-of-the-novel-is-still-premature-94050

Happy reading!

Kirk out

Hugo What? Hugo Who? Longlisted for Where?

OMG.  That’s all I can say.  O – M – G.  It’s just one of those moments where you sit open-mouthed and just say:

https://tenor.com/view/friends-janice-omg-oh-my-god-gif-4089127

It all started this morning.  We were – well, we were doing what I can only describe as praying and OH said, in a list of things, ‘Oh, and thanks for Steve’s email about Hugo.’  I kept my peace till Amen and then I said, ‘Steve?  Hugo?  Who’s Hugo?’

‘Oh, yes,’ says he.  ‘I got an email from Steve at GAILE (his publishers) saying I’m on the list for Hugo.’

Gritting my teeth I said, ‘and who is Hugo?’

‘Not who.  What.  Hugo is a Sci Fi award.  In fact it’s THE Sci Fi award.’

‘What?  You’re up for an award and you didn’t even tell me?’

‘Well, I only just found out.’

‘And you decided to tell God before me?’

‘Well, to be fair, God already knew…’

‘Exactly!’

So, all we know is that ‘Replicas’ –

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Replicas-Galactic-Association-Intelligent-life/dp/1973482177/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1522478286&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=Replicas+Amanda+McIntyre+Ure

– is up for a Hugo award and that the shortlist of five will be announced this evening, 8 pm our time.

http://www.thehugoawards.org/hugo-history/2018-hugo-awards/

I think it’s unlikely he’ll make the shortlist but bloody hell, to be considered is a huge deal.

Kirk out

 

 

 

In Like a Lemon, Out Like a Lamp

It’s March now and you know what they say about March: in like a lion, out like a lamb.  It certainly arrived in leonine fashion; in fact it was more like a snow-leopard than anything, what with the Beast from the East (not Putin) coinciding with Storm Emma (not of The Archers).  The whole shebang reminded me of how blessed we are in general to have the Gulf Stream, and how horrid things would be without it: for, though we are subject to bouts of unpredictability and flurries of inconsistency, the climate of the British Isles (excepting the Highlands and Islands) is generally mild.  With climate change summers have got longer and winters shorter; and whilst I enjoy hot weather it does naturally worry me; a propos of which I have just started reading Naomi Klein’s book ‘This Changes Everything’ – a thorough and very influential guide to climate change and its deniers.

https://thischangeseverything.org/book/

As far as climate change denial is concerned, it is now on the level of ‘the moon landings were faked’ and not far off believing that the earth is flat.  The evidence is there for all to see; the polar ice-caps are shrinking, sea levels are rising, the sea is warming, habitats are vanishing and places like the Maldives are going under.  It takes some degree of mental contortion to disbelieve all of these facts, particularly when you consider that 97% of the world’s scientists agree that man-made climate change is a fact of life.  What’s more worrying is that the process of climate change may be exponential: that like the Fibonacci series I wrote about the other day (of which more anon) levels may not increase at the same rate but reach a ‘tipping-point’ beyond which recovery is all but impossible.

Now, I’m an optimist.  I’m a firm believer in the power of humanity to solve the problems it has created.  But in order to do this we need to believe that there is a problem: and climate-change deniers, especially when they are powerful politicians or global capitalists, are holding up progress in an utterly unconscionable way.

Enough.  We can do this, but everyone has to get on board.

Speaking of Fibonacci, I have planned the novel around the number sequence and, whilst I’m quite excited about this, it does pose some problems; namely, that the first chapters are very short and the last ones very long: it will also be a very long novel if I stick to the plan.  So I’m just going to go with it and see where I end up.  It’s exciting!

Kirk out

Nice Shell Suit. Was it Designed by Fibonacci?

Who or what is a Fibonacci?  Can you eat it?  Do you listen to it?  Is it a bird or a plane?  Is it a fashion designer?

Whatever the truth of this, although I am as ignorant of fashion as to be fashion-comatose, I am in fact aware that Versace was a designer.  I also have the impression that he was a nice guy.  I don’t know why – maybe because he was friends with Elton John and Princess Diana; maybe because I saw him interviewed at some point.  Anyway, I was curious enough about his death, which was eerily close to that of Diana, to click on to the first episode of a new BBC drama, ‘The Assassination of Gianni Versace’.  Assassination might seem a little over the top, but ‘over the top’ is something of a theme here as is evident from the first scene where Versace is shown waking up and going through his morning routine in a Miami house decorated like a tackier version of Versailles.  So far it’s a highly compelling drama with some similarities with The Talented Mr Ripley:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0134119/

A serial killer meets and murders Versace because – well, we don’t quite know why, and that’s the intrigue.  With murder there must always be one element of mystery: either we don’t know who has been killed, or (more commonly) we don’t know who killed them.  But far more interesting are the why mysteries: why on earth did a guy who’d had a casual fling with Versace then go to his house and shoot him in cold blood?  Will he be caught?  And if so, will the police discover why he did it?  Will the courts?  Will we?  Therein lies the intrigue: I can’t believe I have to wait till Wednesday for the next episode.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episodes/b09trdxr?suggid=b09trdxr

Now, as I’m sure you all know, a Fibonacci is None of the Above – neither a fashion designer nor an Italian dish nor an opera singer: it’s a sequence of numbers, sort of like Pi, which seems to be present in nature as well as geometry and architecture.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fibonacci_number

Like Pi it is a never-ending sequence: I’m not sure to how many decimal places Pi has been calculated now but the Fibonacci sequence goes on forever and is much easier to calculate, being a mere matter of addition.  It goes like this:

Starting with one, each number is the sum of the previous two.

Er…

That’s it.

So, starting with one, you get one again because you’re adding one and zero, and then it goes:

2,3,5,8,13,21,34,55,89,144… and so on.  Add infinitum (lol).

What’s the point of it?  Well, it occurs in many natural objects: spiral shells, for one; cauliflowers, for another.

https://www.slideshare.net/lmrio/fibonacci-sequence

It also has applications in geometry and architecture: this slide sequence also covers the Golden Ratio which has applications in both classical architecture and in the proportions of the human body, and uses the number Phi (I said it was like Pi):

And in an exciting new development I have decided to use the Fibonacci series in my latest novel ‘Tapestry (a picture of modern Britain’.)  This means that the first two chapters will have 1000 words each and the last chapter about 48,000.  I have no idea if it’ll work, but it’ll be interesting to see.

Kirk out

 

Black Dog

OK well it’s not going away so there’s nothing to do but write about it – depression, that is.  Quite unexpectedly along with a chest infection I was recently plunged into a most unpleasant depression: not the kind of blank, grey blanket which descends like a fog, but a squirming black horribleness which threatens to engulf my consciousness and, though the infection has receded, refuses to go away.

I’ve not been so prone to depression in recent years, though I had plenty of it in my twenties: thanks to a firmer footing in life, a grounded family, a reasonable work life and a daily yoga practice I was able to keep myself on a fairly even keel.  And although I had some psychotic episodes about a decade ago I’ve barely suffered an hour or so of depression since I got married.

But lately certain things have been spiralling downwards: a lack of material success in spite of huge daily efforts to make it as a writer; persistent poor sleep, struggles with my thyroid, a partner with gender dysphoria and a son with mental health problems have all taken their toll and I’m sure prepared my system to host the infection in the first place.  I have never been so wiped out by a bug as I was by this one: I was completely exhausted for days.  But as soon as the steroids and antibiotics kicked in, the depression made itself felt.  I haven’t felt like this since my twenties when a promising career and love affair went completely into free-fall.

But this is different – and although I know what it’s about, I don’t know what to do about it.  When I was eight I started to write a novel: that novel got squashed by huge and inexplicable forces which I still don’t understand.  I’ve been trying to get back to it ever since and now I’m there: I just never expected the process to be so deeply unpleasant.  I thought it’d be a kind of liberation but instead it’s utterly horrible, like opening the door to a deep dank hole with all kinds of monsters living in it.

All I know how to do is keep writing – and to believe that things are working out.  As Marcus Aurelius says, ‘love only what happens.  No greater happiness.’  In other words, believe that everything happens for your good, even though it may not feel like it.

http://www.great-quotes.com/quotes/author/Marcus/Aurelius

I find great comfort in Marcus Aurelius when things seem grim.

Kirk out