Tag Archives: Phillip Pullman

Lay Your Head on the Writer’s Block

I’m never quite sure what writer’s block is.  I know it refers to an inability to write, but what actually counts as writer’s block?  If you sit staring at a screen for hours without writing a word, does that count?  Or is that too short a time?  Does it have to last at least a few days or weeks before you can call it writer’s block?  And when I wasn’t writing at all between the ages of eight and twenty-four, was that writer’s block?  Or was it a crisis of identity?

Aside from the question of how long it lasts, what kind of thing is writer’s block?  Is it the complete inability to write a single word?  Or does it mean you don’t write anything you’re remotely satisfied with?  If it’s the latter, I’m in trouble – because ‘not remotely satisfied’ describes nearly every day’s work for me.  But if it’s the former I’m OK because most days I manage to write something, even if it’s only a blog post.  Which is why I’m so glad I have this blog, because on really bad days where I can’t string two morphemes together, I can at least manacle a blog post into position, run it up the flag and see if anyone salutes it.  A blog post is usually less than 500 words; it’s achievable and, with the click of a button, it’s published and ready to read.

OH has an interesting view on overcoming writer’s block.  In the same way that Michelangelo saw the sculpture as being hidden within the stone

https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/m/michelange386296.html

you could regard writing as ‘taking away’ everything which is not the story.  I’m not sure how cutting things away works when faced with a blank page rather than a lump of rock, but it’s worth thinking about. *

In ‘His Dark Materials’, Phillip Pullman wrote of the subtle knife which cuts windows between different worlds, ‘you may have intentions but the knife has its own intentions.’

http://www.kidsreads.com/reviews/the-subtle-knife

This is an idea I try to bear in mind when writing a poem; that when writing I may have intentions, but the poem has its own intentions too.  Nevertheless, the blank page can be a very intimidating thing to overcome, so when I have a bad day and think all my thoughts are worthless, I try just to write, believing that anything is better than nothing and reminding myself without a first draft there can be no second draft, no finished version.

I guess the process of writing is hard to fathom, else there would be no such thing as writer’s block.  But it’s clear that writing begins with thought.  Thoughts occur in the mind, and the writer selects which of them to commit to paper: so maybe writer’s block begins here, at the level of thought.  When the mind is a blank, the page will be a blank.  However, in my experience what is more likely going on is that the mind is not producing anything your critical self deems worthy of using; hence a good exercise when blocked is to write whatever comes into your mind, no matter how nonsensical or seemingly worthless.  James Joyce did this, and look what he managed to produce just listening to the babbling of his mind!

Interesting things happen when we let go of controlling our thoughts.  And out of this arises poetry.

And I know it’s not the day for linking to it, but I’m going to link here to the Insecure Writers Support Group because this post is relevant.

http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/

Kirk out

*Sounds like some bizarre version of scissors, paper, stone…

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Filed under language and grammar, my magnum hopeless, novels and longer works, poems, short stories

Si Tacuisses, Philosophus Mansisses

That’s my note to myself this morning.  I’ll give you a translation in a moment – for today’s post is all about well-known Latin phrases with alternative translations.  You know the sort of thing: sic transit gloria mundiCaesar adsum iam forte (Gloria Mundy’s been sick in the transit, Caesar had some jam for tea).  So how many do you know?  I’d like to have them please.  This morning I could only think of these:

ad majorem dei gloria – add marjoram daily, Gloria

et in arcadia ego – I ate an egg in the shopping mall

quomodo vales? – what are they wearing in the valleys?

So I need more please.  Comment below…

and the translation of the title?  ‘If you’d kept your mouth shut we might have thought you were clever.’

Note to self…

Kirk out

PS  ‘Ad majorem dei gloria’ is the motto of the Jesuits, which makes a good connection with the fanatical Christians in Phillip Pullman’s world and a handy link to yesterday’s post.

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Filed under culcha, philosophy

His Light Materials?

I have now finished my re-reading of Philip Pullman’s trilogy of novels entitled ‘His Dark Materials’, and on discovering these I am struck by two things.  The first is the utter power of the imagination; the sheer strength of the envisaging and creation of the various worlds or dimensions through which the protagonists Lyra and Will travel.  He is bold and daring from the start, in that the first novel takes place in another world; and nothing is explained or given to the reader.  You have to work it all out yourself, from the off-beat nature of the Oxford Lyra inhabits * to the frequent references to something called ‘anbaric’ current (only in the second novel do we find out that this world developed power from amber rather than electrum: hence ‘anbaric’ rather than ‘electric’.)  I could go on and on about this and I’m sure others have, but the main thing to say is that the power of Pullman’s imagination and the force of his writing knocks you out like a huge wave.  In the acknowledgements he credits the work of William Blake, and many of the images here are pure Blake, especially the angel Metatron (I can’t find the quote at the moment, but the intensity of his blazing eyes exactly recalls a painting by Blake, which I also can’t find.  I wish I had all day to research these posts, but there you are.)
He is also able to recreate our world with equal authenticity, though the books don’t spend much time here.
Where I think the books fall down is in the rhetoric.  The point is to tell an atheist version of the Adam and Eve myth where the church is the villain (he recreates the excesses of the Inquisition nicely) the angel Metatron is in charge and god – known as the Authority – is old and feeble and ready to die.  Being an atheist myth, it posits the physical world as the only reality and in that sense it is the anti-Narnia, since C S Lewis’s idea (taken from Plato) was that this world is only a faint ‘copy’ or mirror of something more real which we may attain after death.  In ‘His Dark Materials’ there is nothing after death and the dead long passionately to return to the physical world.  But since they are dead, the only way they can return is through a window which Will and Lyra open and which allows them to dissolve into their constituent atoms.
I think the novels fail here – and not just because I’m not an atheist: I think this is where his imagination fails him because he is determined to make this an atheist myth and there is no way to imagine life after death if you’re an atheist.
But don’t take my word for it: read it yourself:
Unless, of course, you already have – in which case read them again.  And take a look at the work of William Blake.  The man was a genius and as I never cease to say, deserves to be celebrated FAR MORE THAN TURNER!!!!!
….deep calming breaths, deep calming breaths….
Kirk out
*this type of fiction, where you posit a world that has split off from ours, is called ‘slipstream’ – as I have recently found out.

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Filed under Book reviews

Losing Ten Kilos and Gaining a Thali and a Bike

Mark has made it!  69.1 kilos this morning, which means he’s hit his target of 70 kg.  He really looks different – slim instead of a bit paunchy; and in honour of the occasion he’s going to cook a thali from scratch.  That means a whole smorgasbord on a tray; 2 different curries, a sauce, puris or chappattis, rice, salad, yoghurt and a sweet which will be gulab jamun.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thali

Challenging!  But perhaps not as challenging as losing 10 kilos…

Alas!  I am not losing any weight; so I am going to look at a bike this morning, in the hope that I’ll be able to get it fixed and start cycling again.  I’m clearly not getting enough aerobic exercise: I do my yoga in the morning and I go for a walk later but neither of those things is aerobic, and the rest of the day I’m seated.  Unless I do a bit of gardening, that is.

So, what have I been reading this week?  The Colm Toibin novella, ‘The Testament of Mary’ was highly evocative and compelling; alas, I have problems with atheist versions of religious stories, not because I’m anti-atheist but because they always seem to have an axe to grind.  This even extends to the other book I’m reading – however, the imaginative power of ‘The Amber Spyglass’ more than compensates for these issues as the story-telling is quite incredible.  When you first read these books you are utterly mesmerised; it’s a feeling similar to reading the Narnia books for the first time, except that there’s a lot more to figure out.  He doesn’t give the reader much; no explanation or back-story; you just have to work it out for yourself.  So if you haven’t yet caught up with ‘His Dark Materials,’ do so.  It’s a brilliant read, and the film is great too – it’s just sad that they didn’t finish the trilogy.  I’d swap that for the bloody Hobbit any day:

http://www.philip-pullman.com/pages/content/index.asp?PageID=50

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0385752/

Kirk out

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Filed under Book reviews, film reviews, friends and family, God-bothering