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, October 13, 2008

Status Report: Week Forty-One

While not as bad as last week, number forty-one was another sub-par effort, though for different reasons than those I wallowed in last week. No, I actually felt stories bubbling up inside of me. I was less tired. My time was more my own. The problem, this time, was reading.

I am normally reading three books at once. One is the audiobook I listen to while travelling to and from work. One I leave at work and read during my lunch breaks. Another I read at home. Now that we have our own bathroom, I have split the last category in two, leaving one book in the bathroom, and one beside my bed.

On a given week, I would expect to read 100-150 pages of my lunch time book, anywhere from 50-200 pages of an at-home book, and listen to about 7 hours of an audiobook (which corresponds to 180 pages at a rough guess). That’s an average week.

I don't think that's a lot. In fact, when I allow myself to think about life after this million words malarkey, I usually feel that I could pull back on some of the writing (less blog posts and graph making, less rookie poetry), and spend more time reading books.

But, even in the Year of Circa 800,000 Written Words, all it takes is one book to bump writing from my top priority.

On Monday I finally received my contributor’s copies of The Best New Zealand Fiction Volume Five. They were posted a month ago, but to my old address. So the anticipation had rather built. In fact, it is now more than a year since I got an email from Owen Marshall asking if I would like to submit anything, so the arrival of the finished product was a long timing coming. (I once had a dream that a full-blown Scot from work who’d never been to NZ also got a story into the collection, and I was outraged…)

After scanning the introduction for the appearance of my name (I’m only human) I quickly got sucked into the other stories. One of the first things I noticed was BNZF5 is ordered by author’s surname, as was the last edition of Sport. This is fine. I tend not to read short story collections or literary journals in a linear fashion. The beauty of such books is that you can jump around. You have 15 minutes left of your bus journey so you flick through and find a four page story. You aren’t really in the mood for a story in the second person, so you read instead about a trip to Morocco. Having an arbitrary order seems to encourage such behaviour.

Jumping in and out of these stories got me excited about reading again. Every spare moment felt like a book should fill it. I looked at the poetry I was bashing out and decided I’d rather be reading finished products from better poets than myself. On Saturday I went to the Scottish Poetry Library and again struggled to limit myself to six books. (Along with this exercise, the SPL is one of the main offenders when it comes to explaining my sudden obsession with writing and reading poetry).

The books I am currently reading now looks like this:

The Blind Assassin is my audiobook. The two Bond novels I found in the closet of our new flat and they had been my bathroom and bedside books until BNZF5 arrived, and they look set to be relegated further with all that poetry around. The one book not pictured is Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell, which is in my desk at work.

With any book, but especially with poetry, I can’t stand to have it lie around without at least having read a few pages. With the Miłosz and the Geoff Cochrane, this ended with me reading the whole books through. (I have now read all of GC’s poetry collections from 1992 to the present; again, thanks to the SPL).

So my reading is all over the place. Writing seems less exciting: I might not know exactly what’s going to happen, but I at least have a modicum of control. This week, at least, control was something I could do without.

At some stage, I hope to talk about what’s actually gone on inside some of these books…

But until then…

Week Forty-One – The Stats

Weekly Wordcount: 16,815 words (compared to 12,007 words last week)
Average: 2,402 words per day (compared to target of 3,001 words/day)
Most productive day: Sunday 12 October, 3,347 words
Least productive day: Wednesday 8 October, 1,458 words
Year-to-date: 646,559 words (134,822 words behind target)

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