Wednesday, March 7, 2012

That Kind of Writer

Today it is a rainy day in Oxford.  It is one of those classic English days, actually, where the rain is interspersed with periods of glowing cloud or even sunshine, from which will then burst a sudden shower at the very moment you thought it was safe to pop your brolly into your bag.  I have wasted most of the morning reading emails and blogs and articles people have posted to Facebook.  I also read the little booklet that came in Evan's organic veg box from Abel & Cole, and was inspired to make some stewed cabbage and balsamic caramelized onions.  I had intended to go to a Medieval Romances lecture at the Bodleian at 1:00, but my onions were only just finishing at 12:45, and that would have been the absolutely latest I could leave if I were walking.  I might have been able to cycle, but it is really hard to hold an umbrella when you are cycling, and it was raining again until about ten minutes ago.  Now, of course, the sun is shining from a mostly-blue sky, and I am rather regretting not getting myself out the door.  My day is wide open until at least 5 p.m., when there is another lecture on 15th century Italian astrologists at All Souls which sounded interesting, and then a drop-in information session at 6 at Exeter for a programme whereby Oxford graduates will teach taster-courses to students considering applying for a degree.  (I was speaking to an adviser at the Careers Centre on Monday about the possibility of using my teaching skills in a student recruitment or access role, and this seems like a good way to get involved.)

Our German housemate said they were too small...
As mentioned previously in my Unmotivated post, I don't do well with unstructured time.  Lately I have been carefully planning a few activities every day so that my time is well apportioned.  I have been rowing, of course, and attending events and lectures offered by the university.  Last night I went to a showing of "The Kiss of the Spider Woman" at Queen's College, the film being part of a series of Brazilian movies being shown for Brazil week.  I had heard of it before, but knew nothing of the plot.  How very strange it was!  Rather terrible dialogue, really.  I have also spent a lot of time in the kitchen, baking soft pretzels, cookies, and cakes.  Before the film last night I made a sour milk cake, mainly because I had some milk that had gone off.  It's really moist and chocolatey; I didn't even need to frost it.  Last Saturday I spent a lovely afternoon with my friend James making penguin cupcakes that turned out to be really adorable!  So creativity in the kitchen is returning, which makes me happy, because for the longest while I had rather stopped enjoying cooking and baking, or at least never felt strongly inclined to do any.

I shall call him Squishy, and he shall be mine
I have done a lot of reading lately, too.  I've read about half of We: the Psychology of Romantic Love, which I bought on a whim with a Borders gift card right before they closed.  It is not exactly riveting, and its desperate attempt to scrape a pattern of all human behaviour from the romance of "Tristan und Iseult" smacks of a mediocre master's thesis.  I read a book on living with people who are depressed, which I picked up absent-mindedly in the MCR when I was up there waiting for someone.  I read Henry and June, a portion of Ana├»s Nin's diary dealing with her affair with Henry Miller and her obsession with his wife, June.  I had never read any of Nin's writings before, but I have decided she is wonderful.  Descriptive, observant, passionate, honest, she captures perfectly the experience of being a sensual woman, of studying her own desires while also fully realising them.  It has made me want to start writing again, myself.

We all wanted to be Harriet
I am further inspired by an old friend from middle school, who even as an eighth grader was writing fantasy stories and illustrating them, who later became an excellent artist, and who is working on a novel which she is allowing me to read, even in its unfinished state.  I have only managed three or four chapters, but I am finding her world well-described and her characters realistic, and I think she will be able to publish it quite easily.  Strangely, it was this same friend having filled multiple notebooks with her scribblings by the age of 13 that made me fear that I did not have the right combination of talent and dedication that it would take to become a writer.  I had wanted to write almost since I had learned to read, and was reasonably confident in my ability to write well (which had been reinforced by the constant approbation of teachers and other adults up to that point), but when I saw the sheer volume of her work, and the time and energy she spent constantly thinking about it and discussing it and imagining new personalities to populate her stories, I faltered.  I didn't have that kind of drive, nor did I think I could learn to cultivate it.  At that point, I gave up on becoming a writer.  No, really, I did.  I decided I would be an English teacher instead, so that I could help other people study and appreciate literature the way I did, and maybe become writers, themselves.

Ah, for a doghouse roof of one's own
Fifteen years later, I am thinking maybe I was a bit too rash.  I still don't have drive, or discipline.  But the praise and admiration of my writing has never ceased, and the pleasure I feel whenever I have produced a piece that I am proud of gives me hope that it could be fulfilling--even if it won't pay the bills.  I think I might give writing another go.  Not here; I have heard plenty of times that I am a terrible blogger, that I lack pithiness and humour, that I am not regular or engaged enough to gain a following, that my readers do not have the attention span to do anything more than skim my long posts.  But I don't really want to be "a blogger," as such.  I want to be a writer, with all the egotism, narcissism, self-righteousness, and self-deception that that entails; the kind who write without a plan, who write for the sake of writing, for the art, for the fun of it, rather than in order to please their readers; the kind who are rarely published during their lifetimes because they refuse to submit to editors' amendments, yet who are often revered as literary geniuses decades after their deaths.

I want to be that kind of writer.