While living and working in Edinburgh in 2008 I set out to write one million words in 366 days... but only managed 800,737.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Status Report: Week Twenty-Nine

Week Twenty-Nine – The Stats

Weekly Wordcount: 17,598 words (more than I wrote in the previous two weeks combined)

Average: 2,514 words per day (compared to target of 3,001/day)

Most productive day: Saturday 19 July, 3,609 words

Least productive day: Tuesday 15 July, 948 words

Year-to-date: 477,996 words (73,916 words behind target)

Expect Status Reports to appear on Mondays from here on out.

I used to draft up the blog entry last thing on a Sunday evening, tally the words (as they counted towards the week I was reporting on), then finalise all the stats and graphs... but I've finally tired of the jiggery-pokery. I'm all for streamlining these days.

Perhaps poetry is to blame...

I went to the Scottish Poetry Library for the second time on Saturday. My first visit coincided with some uni students being given a tour -- I felt like and interloper, and ended up loping out without borrowing a single book.

But on my second visit I had the place pretty much to myself.

And what a wonderful place! (Though I will say it does have a terribly squeaky floor for a building less than a decade old...)

It is run by an ex-pat Kiwi, and thanks to a deal struck with Creative New Zealand (and the donations of a few visiting Kiwi poets) the Scottish Poetry Library has a wonderful collection of contemporary New Zealand poetry. I mean, they have eight books by Geoff Cochrane (he's quickly becoming my favourite NZ poet). Having been out of Aotearoa since 2006, it was the first chance I've had to read so many of these books. [Admission: I hadn't read most of those released before 2006 either, so...].

I spent a couple of hours sitting at a table and reading through books by Jenny Bornholdt, James Brown, Glenn Colquhoun, and Mr. Cochrane... and still had to limit myself to borrowing four books of NZ poetry, as I needed to use my final two loans for something more Scottish.

I have the books for a month, but I suspect I'll be revisiting the SPL (not to be confused with the Scottish Premier League) sooner than that.

It's no coincidence that my sudden passion for poetry corresponds to a larger chunk of last weeks pie being expended in pursuit of the p-word. And for all the 5,614 words, I did manage to wind up with seven poems I’m happy with. How many I’ll be happy with when I read them again in two or three months time, well, that’s the real test.

I don't see this as a conversion to poetry. I've always dabbled. And I'm not writing any less prose / thinking any less about narratives. It’s just I’m getting quicker at spotting the sorts of things that can only work as a poem, rather than trying to force them into prose.

As I've pushed myself give every idea a fair chance at making it to the page, I've realised that ideas are a renewable resource. If you chop down ten, another ten will grow. And if you don't harvest them, you're unlikely to get much new growth from year to year.

Maybe a better (worse) metaphor is shaving your legs. Once you start to shave (so I'm told), the hairs grown back thicker and more plentiful, which makes not shaving worse than if you had never started shaving in the first place. So too with writing. If you start to use your ideas, new, thicker, hardier ideas will take their place. If you stop using the ideas, they won't settle back down, but throb away in your skull. Once you start to blacken the white page, you never go back. Or something like that.

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