Thursday, February 24, 2011

Swaying His Legs Like A Pair Of Woolen-Coated Pendulums

There was no News From Nowhere post yesterday : blame it on my friend Chrissy. There we were on Tuesday night, the two families enjoying a convivial dinner at the rather splendid Farmers' Boy in Shepley, exchanging conversational gambits. During a momentary lull in the conversation and whilst I was spearing one of their fine hand-cooked chips onto my fork, she lobbed an anti-personnel mine across the table. "How's the book coming along?" Oh, you cruel woman, you appointed agent of the unforgiving muses, you twice-distant cousin of Shakespeare's Dark Lady. The answer, of course, was that it is not : it has not moved forward at all since I returned from my holiday last November. Creativity rapidly evaporated with every step closer I came to the comfort of home, the time-wasting pleasures of over-thick daily newspapers, and the need to catch-up with missed episodes of Coronation Street. But yesterday, with the whip-lash of her comments still raw in my mind, I turned to the manuscript yet again, and attempted to move the ancient hulk forward.

I have a significant track-record for starting books that never get finished. There was my "Lives Of The Great Brewers" : a book which was going to rival "The Lives of the Great Saints", but never progressed passed Henry Thrale of Southwark. There was a series of short stories entitled "The Deaf Detective" which would have won a prize any day for being some of the shortest short stories ever produced. Perhaps the nearest I ever got to finishing a book was a project I embarked on fifteen years ago, which never really had a proper title, but was about an investigator working for the Internal Audit Directorate of the European Commission in Brussels. His name was Theodore Koniaris and because he was from Greece, he was known as "Theo The Greek".

I approached the writing of this unfinished novel in a quite ridiculous way : I wrote it on the back of a series of picture postcards. I would acquire two identical postcards for each "episode", one I would address and send to my good friend Martin, the other I would keep in a box at home. The approach had three distinct advantages : it ensured you did a little writing every day, the picture side of the postcard provided some measure of prompt for the developing story, and it kept the postman who would deliver the cards to Martin's house amused. As an illustration of the process, here is the second card which was dated 20th February 1995. The front of the card is illustrated above, the reverse - with the daily episode but without the address - is reproduced below.

In order to kick-start my current unfinished book, perhaps I ought to adopt the same, ridiculous approach.


  1. I have still to start my book: Monetarism in Post Colonial Old Sodbury Between the Great Bread Disaster of 2007 and the Opening of The Bell in 2010.

  2. Anonymous12:32 PM

    I hate to tell you this, Alan, but creative people are usually more creative than ordinary folk. Having said that, they can also be a lot of false starters. I am one of them myself. I think too much. Mother said, "Stop thinking about it and just do it!" I was in a hell of a shape until the Army sent me through Clerks school. I still cannot, for the life of me, remember where the keys are on the keyboards and I can still type about 80 words a minute. They never taught me anything as I still type using three fingers on each hand any my thumb for the space bar. Since I was faster and more accurate than anybody in class in the Army, they let me do my thing. I ended up working for Commanding Generals in the US Army. For the 1st Cavalry Division. If not one of them it would be the Chief of Staff.


    Well I could drag an old desk top underwood typewriter (before portables and before electric) and type as fast as the general could dictate.

    I have file cabinets full of unpublished stuff. I got so disgusted once that I published some on my own that became best sellers among college bookstores. So you never know...

  3. what a cool idea the story written on postcards, that is a story idea in and of got my brain going...hmmm....

  4. Somebody made a postcard with Geronimo's picture on the front? Hmmmmm... I think you might get some inspiration by trying to work him into the story; maybe Theo the Greek (who apparently doesn't look Greek) is a lineal descendant of the famous Apache leader.

  5. Okay. The pendulum thing is kinda scary. A bit of crazy synchonicity, don't you think, especially in light of your first comment on Simic?

    I adore the book/postcard idea.

  6. As the recipient of the story on a postcard I would just like to let the wider public know that it was(is)a gripping story made more intriguing by the accompanying picture.
    Finish it!!

  7. AgedGrouper : When did you become AgedGrouper? Perhaps I should put the latest unfinished story on postcards and send it to you.

  8. Perhaps, those of us who have unfinished manuscripts, should try an produce the first blended novel?

  9. Nice idea Martin : Let us hope that the results was less like a blended whisky and more like a single malt.

  10. I already want to read the rest of it! You've hit on something rather unique and intriguing there. Perhaps it could be a book consisting of a series of postcards. The reader could study each one for clues before reading the chapter.

    I have dozens of unfinished written projects ... literally!

  11. I've often thought of starting a writing project, but blogging is the nearest I've ever got to doing anything about it. I'll be interested to know when you finish yours!

  12. I suppose there really isn't any rule that says you must finish a book you are writing. Just as long as the writing gives you pleasure.

    You could always do it on a blog...a chapter a know we would all read it! :)

  13. Anonymous9:38 PM

    I hope you didn't get indigestion as a result of the enquiry on your progress... I'm with Betsy - if you enjoy the writing process, just keep doing it :-) Jo


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