Saturday, 24 December 2011

50,000 words

When I began writing the novel, twelve weeks ago, I had no idea how far I'd get. Frankly, I expected to run out of steam pretty soon. But I also had some wild fantasies of what I might achieve. The wildest of these was to reach 50,000 words. And now I'm here. Wow. It does feel great. But the story isn't finished yet. And so, I'll go on.

Sunday, 18 December 2011


Blessing for a Friend, on the Arrival of Illness

Now is the time of dark invitation
beyond a frontier that you did not expect;
abruptly, your old life seems distant.

You barely noticed how each day opened
a path through fields never questioned,
yet expected deep down to hold treasure.
Now your time on earth becomes full of threat;
before your eyes your future shrinks.

You lived absorbed in the day to day,
so continuous with everything around you,
that you could forget you were separate;

now this dark companion has come between you,
distances have opened in your eyes,
you feel that against your will
a stranger has married your heart.

Nothing before has made you
feel so isolated and lost.

When the reverberations of shock subside in you,
may grace come to restore you to balance.
May it shape a new space in your heart
to embrace this illness as a teacher
who has come to open your life to new worlds.

May you find in yourself
a courageous hospitality
towards what is difficult,
painful and unknown.

May you use this illness
as a lantern to illuminate
the new qualities that will emerge in you.

May the fragile harvesting of this slow light
help you to release whatever has become false in you.
May you trust this light to clear a path
through all the fog of old unease and anxiety
until you feel arising within you a tranquility
profound enough to call the storm to stillness.

May you find the wisdom to listen to your illness:
ask it why it came? why it chose your friendship?
where it wants to take you? what it wants you to know?

what quality of space it wants to create in you?
what you need to learn to become more fully yourself
that your presence may shine in the world.

May you keep faith with your body,
learning to see it as a holy sanctuary
which can bring this night-wound gradually
towards the healing and freedom of dawn.

May you be granted the courage and vision
to work through passivity and self-pity,
to see the beauty you can harvest
from the riches of this dark invitation.

May you learn to receive it graciously,
and promise to learn swiftly
that it may leave you newborn,
willing to dedicate your time to birth.

John O'Donohue

from Benedictus (2007)

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

42,000 words

Another milestone passed on the journey to the completion of the first draft. And I've also seen how its going to end. For a long time I wasnt really able to imagine this. The story was unfolding with twists and turns. I couldnt be sure of exactly where it was going. But now I see the ending, or at least I think I can. I also know some of the steps that the story will take to get there. But as has happened all along, new scenes and developments arise in an organic way. The process of putting your ideas into the characters heads and mouths leads them into things that you didnt really envisage. And this is exactly one of the features that makes writing such an enjoyable activity - as well as being compulsive, frustrating, unsettling, etc.

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Monday, 28 November 2011


Recently I had a gastroscopy (a camera down into your stomach) to investigate the source of some persistent digestive problems. It's easily the most unpleasant of all the procedures I've had under local anaesthetic. You go into a little operating theatre, they spray the back of your throat and thread down a thick black tube with a bright light at the end. You can feel it rumbling around your gullet and into your guts, then they pull the tube backwards and forwards through your mouth, twisting the little camera around the folds of your stomach. You're gagging and belching, as they're also pushing in air to inflate your stomach whilst they're taking the pictures. This continues for a very long half an hour. You wouldn't want to have it twice.

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Saturday, 19 November 2011

30,000 words

I'm celebrating the milestone of 30,000 words today. At least halfway to the first draft of the novel. I've written and published plenty of poems before. But this is my first novel. I began seven weeks ago and have just kept going. I started with a page of notes about the story. I didnt really know what I should do next. I jumped into the deep end and started writing. I've since been told that this is the best way. And you try to keep going as best you can until you've written your first draft. Then the hard work of making it into something worthwhile begins. Well at least I'm halfway there.

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Sunday, 13 November 2011

Getting a start

In the midst of writing a novel I embark on a blog called writer's block. Oh distraction. Had I better stop now? I wonder. Indeed, wouldn't you? Better stop now. Or go on? Oh dear. A bit Beckettian. I ought to stop myself. Before I go any further. Yes. Mightn't that be best for all concerned? Well we'll see.

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