I find myself midway through the 2nd week of the literary vomit exercise I am calling my next work of fiction. Vomit, I realise after 8 days of writing, is a strong word. This is more like retching. More specifically, the kind of retching you do AFTER you’ve vomited up the 4 tequilas, 5 beer and ill-advised glass of red wine. Sporadic, painful and of dubious benefit.
But retching away I am. Because past experience has demonstrated that I will pass from this painful phase into a glorious kind of spitting… kind of like what you would do in a swimming pool on a summer’s day… Taking mouthfuls of water and spraying it from between your lips across the pool.
But its winter here in Amsterdam and there are no swimming pools. I would no more take mouthfuls of canal water to spray across the way than I would right now be downing tequila and beer. So retching it is.
In between visits to the literary toilet, I have also been trying out some new things: writing lessons, critique groups, exercises. Stuff I never do. It’s been a help. I have learned some cool new things to try out. But as usual, the most helpful things are the ones that come from what I am doing.
I am learning that I must actually STOP goddam thinking when I am writing. I must let it flow. It doesn’t matter that I have no scenario, no linking narrative. I am vomiting. It doesn’t matter that there is no backstory, I am vomiting. It doesn’t matter that I don’t know how long it is, I am vomiting. It doesn’t matter that I am not sure how to steer this beast, I have already written the end
Ahh yes, that’s what I said: the end. This is a new one for me. I have already written the end. I was at a writing lesson this last week and I was horrified when a woman there confessed that the first thing she does with EVERY book is read the last pages. So horrified I guess that I was subconsciously driven to write the end of this new story now. Oh Jung, how you’d love me now!
Of course my capricious conscious mind has also been pre-filtering my day to day reality to present me with seemingly serendipitous coincidences thematically linked to my writing to keep me keen as well. Unfortunately I am like the sceptical dog: Sceptical. Well, some of the articles, thoughts and encounters have been enlightening and will become sublimed in to the book in some for or other no doubt. But whether it is as excrement or mutant has yet to be seen.
The central problem I am currently experiencing is that I am writing about a thought that has bugged me for some time: Everything is broken. Nice hey? Not depressing at all. The book shouldn’t be depressing. In fact I am seeing it as somewhat of an irreverent romp. But it does deal with the notion that, on many levels, we are living through the end of days of our civilisation here in the west. That so many of the good ideas have turned out badly and that the western capitalist milieu is its own worst enemy and the beings that it has spawned (yes, us!) are really not the very best expression of the limitless potential of the human spirit but rather drones slaved to the purposes of others.
And every day I find reinforcement and affirmation of that train of thought and there is nothing Jungian or unconscious about it. But it being so centred in my thoughts, it is depressing. Bleakly, unrelentingly depressing. Not in any dramatic way that the words bleak and unrelenting might conjure. Just like a heavy, wet, grey blanket.
Not that this is stopping me. Of course this is also part of my motivation to write this book. But I do wonder: Fiction? What is it good for? These are real problems with our culture. And fictionalising real problems seems like a problem to me. But I am no scientist, psychologist or theologian, so fiction is the device I have to hand I guess.
The up side is that I have managed to get down quite a lot of ideas over the last 8 writing days. I am pretty pleased!