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Quote of the day, week, month, year

by J. C. Greenway
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Well, I have a deep disdain for them [Tony and Cherie]. I couldn’t bear that grinning, money-hungry, beaming, Cliff Richard-loving, Berlusconi-adoring, guitar-playing twat.

– Jonathan Miller

There is plenty more where this gem came from over here.

Sometimes it’s easy to write reams and reams about a subject, to set out a case and argue it fully, leaving any readers in no doubt of the writer’s point of view. And other times it’s more a case of grabbing people by the arm and saying “come here, look at this, it’s really good!” – which is what this one’s all about.

I once saw a clip of Jonathan Miller interviewing Dudley Moore about how he played the piano. The reason why I loved it so much (now sadly lost, alas) is Dud’s obvious puzzlement when asked to describe something that he does so well and so innately. He is initially completely perplexed at having to explain logically a skill which comes naturally to him.

I have been pondering this lately, as sometimes the writing goes easy and all is well, the sun shines, the birds fly down low to talk to me about my day and playful baby rabbits gambol around my feet. Then, just as quickly, the sun goes behind a cloud, the rain tips down in sheets and the wildlife gets savagely ripped apart by weasels as the flow of words dries up. When I sit down at my desk to work, I never know which it will be. I am trying to figure out why the good days happen so I can con my brain into thinking a weasel day is a good one and maybe, I don’t know, get more prolific.

It appears that I’m not the only one struggling with this either. Some of my favourite writers have posted recently about not being able to write, losing the ability to string sentences together, lacking belief in their ability to write. A couple of them are published writers too, which almost makes me want to give up and throw my half-written book into the sea. If finishing a book doesn’t make it any easier, what hope is there for me?

So why does the writing flow, when it flows? Is it muscle memory: I’m sitting at the keys typing, so not thinking about it too much? Then I can freely pull words from my brain to describe scenes both from memory and imagination, attempting to make them as real as if I was standing in the middle of them, so that when you read them it’s as if you’re standing next to me. Just as if I was pulling you by the arm, saying “over here, look at this!”

Except that you can’t be there, because however well I paint it, you will always see the scene with your own eyes, your own memory and your own imagination. Stephen King in On Writing called it magic, the ability to transmit pictures from your head to the reader using words, but when it works it’s more like alchemy, turning what could be a tedious description on a fairly boring piece of paper into the kind of absorbing read that makes you ignore all household duties, neglect a holiday companion or keeps you reading through the night long past a sensible bed-time.

Like Dudley Moore in the clip, I still have no idea why it happens when it does and is so difficult at other times, however, the chance of one day stringing together something as perfectly beautiful as the poetry of that ‘Cliff Richard-loving, Berlusconi-adoring, guitar-playing twat’ is enough reason not to go chucking manuscripts or laptops seawards just yet…

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