Exercises: a snippet of craft in progress (or, there’s always more shit to shovel)

I’m working at my craft.

This is a bit like mucking out the stables because you ride a horse.  Or carrying your saddle down the road to ride someone else’s.  The results make you a better person, with stronger muscles and some humility, but probably won’t show up when you trot around the ring.

The thing is though, even when you’re really riding, it’s still bumpy as hell and you’re liable to fall off or get a really sore arse.  The horse may skitter, the saddle may slip, a stirrup might hang on to your boot.  From my experience the best riding is bareback.  When you fall off, it’s a clean fall and you rarely hurt yourself.  You don’t worry how you’re trotting, you just do it.  And when you gallop you use pure instinct, your hands shoved in the mane, your thighs gripping and steering, the wind a shiver of exhileration past your face.

That means the editor is not there.  These exercises help me to get to that unfettered place.

1.1  Sixty Seconds

Sixty sedonds is not long to write and I’m thinking about he mould in the room and how it stinkis and is that the ants or is that the mould? Mind is blandk, bland blank, yes, that’s how it runs sometimes I guess but hey I did manage to chuck a rhyme in there somewhere might try this by hand it might be easier and a bit faster, get a bit omore out of mey brain then withough these terrible typos seems I’m a shit typer afet all.  Jessus!!!!

1.2   Self-Portrait

The computer screen is a bit grey it makes me wonder if that’s maybe my eyes, the desk is squeaking and my typing really is terrible if I don’t concentrate – I correct a lot of errors as I go which probably slows me down to a large degree.  The oil burner has heated up now so eucalyptus wafts around the room, drying my lungs and nostrils out from the constant rain that drips even now, on the roof.  It’s a soft tap, tap: banging as thick drips and fine sticks fall from the tree outside the bedroom window.  I never thought that I would get sick of the sound of rain on a corrugated roof but it’s not the sound itself – that is always pleasant, but the knowledge that the sun isn’t there even as the birds call out valiantly as soon as it eases off even slightly.  My seat is in need of a pump up, the ball always seems to leak somewhat or perhaps it’s just the heaviness of my bum that makes the texture thin although I had one years ago and it did the same thing.  Perhaps they were both old and maybe a new one wouldn’t do it, this one now is second hand and while my old one was new to begin with I let it sit for nearly 5 years before I blew it up so perhaps the integrity of the plastic or whatever it is had already perished a bit.  My cardigan is keeping me warm because although it is still technically summer for another two weeks, this constant rain has chased the temperatures into autumn climes and the constant clouds surrounding our house at this level above sea level have raised a psychological effect too – it feels cold, mentally, although if you move about a bit you’ll soon discover that your body is still registering a summer temperature and reaction to exercise.  I just had to look down again at the book to make sure that I hadn’t forgotten anything, and I had – I need to describe taste, if I have one, or a taste I could imagine.  Well the smell of the eucalyptus reminds me of the lollies we used to buy at the canteen (I was never Australian enough to call it the tuck shop) which were a treat to me even though it was usually because you had a chesty cough or a snotty nose that you bought them.  Sometimes I used to buy them when I had ten cents (you got ten for that) just to suck on because I liked the flavour and I never was one for an overly sweet tooth.  It was that or a zooper dooper or sometimes a toffee apple bar, occasionally a white knight or the jaw sticking cobblers; caramel blocks in chocolate that took a good few minutes to chew just one.  Small sometimes treats, feeling cool because I actually could go to the canteen and buy something and say hello to nice Mrs D…… who was always so lovely and remembered my name but whose daughter K….. was a cow in primary and an outright bitch in high school and who later went on to throw her weight around in the police force.  Mrs D…….. never stopped being nice all the way through to year 12 and I was nice to her even when her daughter was bullying me.  I wondered after meeting K…….’s dad too, who was a fair bit older than Mrs D………, how such a horrible child could come out of two really nice people.  I remember we had to get our polio vaccination near the canteen down behind the administration block – a small plastic spoon with sickly pink liquid – and I had no money to go to the canteen that day, or maybe I did.  Memories run into each other over time and it’s hard to place times and days all together the way they actually happened.  My self-portrait seems to have drifted off a bit from that taste section.

The ball is alright to sit on but I’m not sure I could sit at my desk and write all day on it, I would need to get some back support maybe, although when I sit with it straight underneath me and push my heels into it it is a lot more comfortable and I sit up straight then without any issues, as I’m doing now.  My desk, although it is laminated chipboard, feels soft to me.  I’m not sure if that’s the moisture seeping in somehow or if it’s a psychological trick brought on by this being my writing desk and my solace, my saviour, my creative haven, my work space, my place of comfort and stability.  If I could only get the corner of the room behind it not to stink of ants and/or moisture I would be very happy.  As it is, the green wall behind my desk is less of a distraction than a window would be and I find that I work very well here in this situation.  Working with my back to the window is much better for me.  There are times to daydream and there are times to work and I don’t work so well if I combine them.  My typing has improved somewhat (she says as the typos come suddenly thickly) perhaps I just need to slow down, get my brain and fingers coordinated and then pick up speed, it seems to work better for me that way.

I think I’ve covered everything in my exercise.  It really is easy to write once I get writing.  Words are effortless really – it’s just a matter of making them into stories and I know I can write good stories because editors have told me, and I know I can write good poems because editors and poets have told me and I know people respond well to what I’ve written.  The signs are there that I have talent, but it is hard work and hard work alone that will get me published.  Talent is a given but without work I could take the gift to the grave and I’m not sure if I would even think it fair to be forgiven for wasting such a gift.  So work I must and it’s a good thing that the words come easily and that I do not dread the page or doubt my ability to create and that I do actually enjoy what I’ve written and the act of writing and it does give me a good sense of achievement and satisfaction.  Lucky that, it would be pretty shithouse (I’ve evidently become Australian enough now) if I was a writer who actually hated writing.  As it is, it thrills me.  Especially when the words just flow.  And they are – look!

(I’m working my way through a book by Kate Grenville, called “The Writing Book”, these are exercises from Chapter 1.  I’ve since swapped to my hand as it does come easier.)





About talesbytink

I've lived various lives in various places but have been a writer at heart the whole time. The experiences of being other things in other lands and times can only make my writing richer. I have no regrets about the road travelled. There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.
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