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 6, 2008

Status Report: Week Forty

Week Forty – The Stats

Weekly Wordcount: 12,007 words
Average: 1,715 words per day (compared to 2,529 last week)
Most productive day: Tuesday 30 September, 3,660 words
Least productive day: Saturday 4 October, 283 words
Year-to-date: 629,784 words (132,511 words behind target)

Last week was a down week, no denying. There are plenty of things at which I can point my finger, both mental and physical, but it felt as if something else, something less definable, was enveloping everything. Here’s my attempt to put it into a graph:

It’s the grey ring that’s the real problem. I’ve called it Cyclic Intangibles because I feel it is part of a cycle. At a writing high (see Week 35), it feels as if the planets have aligned. I have time and space to write. Everything feels settled. I have motivation, perhaps a specific, achievable goal. But there’s something more. As if planets really have aligned and all that astrology carry-on is the business. As if there really are muses. As if the universe wants me to write!

At the lows (see Week Forty), it feels as if the universe thinks writing is a monumental waste of time. As if, just to spite me, the transit of Venus is messing with my Feng Shui and all that carry-on is the business. In a low the obstacles to writing are more than the sum of the constraints on your time and energy. On top of everything -- or more correctly, surrounding everything -- is a fine mist of ugh. Trying to write (meaningfully, purposefully) in a low feels like Saturn trying to burst through its own rings of ice and dust.

But for some reason, I can write poetry whilst surrounded by a ring of ugh. *Brief pause to consult first pie chart.* I think this is because poetry is used to being surrounded.

SCENE: Half a dozen squad cars pull into a motel carpark, sirens blaring. Novels and DVDs and Playstation Games get out of the squad cars, guns drawn, and encircle a single sheet of browning paper. A ghost-written James Patterson Novel with a megaphone: “Alright, Poetry, we have you surrounded.”

But poetry doesn’t care if it’s in a parking lot or juvi. It doesn’t seek to capture the universe. Instead it withdraws to its safe place and captures the inside of the turtle’s shell. Inside this shell there’s no thoughts about publishing (I’m such a rookie poet it’s not funny), and certainly not making money (not even the Galapagos Tortoises of poetry can manage to live on verse alone). Inside the turtle’s shell, it’s dark. For prose, I am constantly trying to build a big enough fire to see my way through the darkness. With poetry, I am happy to sit and wait for my eyes to adjust. Slowly pin-pricks will appear. There is, it turns out, a universe within that turtle shell.

That is my overly poetic mixed metaphorical explanation of the number 12,007.

I am not going to abandon Novel B. It’s just a low. These things are cyclic. In five weeks, I’ll be high on words, the muses will communicate by RSS feed, the planets will slow their orbits in awe, and, for the cherry on top, I’ll get something accepted for an online journal I had forgotten I submitted to. But first, I need a good night’s sleep!

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