88 days began around 20 hours ago. I started by thinking about inspirations. People, ideas, countries. And so…
A theme for week one: Inspiration
So who inspires me? I asked a couple of friends, and all of them needed a little time. Actually, Linda gave me a couple to start, then retracted. I did the same. Should it be someone who’s directly affected my life choices? What’s the difference between aspiration and inspiration? Do heroes count?
Is it more likely to be people closer to home, people I can share a beer with? I’m slowly getting to know a guy, a guy who Hunter S Thompson once described as ‘sinister’. He lives in New Plymouth, plays guitar, and once ran a vegetarian cafe in Guatemala with his wife and kids. When this gent nods his head sagely at something I’ve said, or laughs at one of my jokes, I feel better about myself. Maybe he’s a truer choice than say…Hemingway?
And it isn’t just who, is it? Everything I write starts with an idea. A seed, a catalyst. Inspiration. I’m writing this paragraph in a rural cafe, perched at the edge of a busy (for New Zealand…) motorway. Unusually, there aren’t any coffee sacks on the walls. What’s the story with those sacks? Who makes them? What do the markings mean? What of the sack maker’s family? Community? The needle she sews with, the light he sews by, their dreams for their children.
So maybe inspiration can be found in an absence. Or in nuance, minutiae, seeming trivialities. If the devil’s in the details, then maybe him (should that be gender neutral?) and I are about to become firm friends.
A muse for week one
Last week I listened to two interviews with an American author who’s now in her mid 80s. She was forthright, opinionated, and yet gracious. I could imagine her putting Hemingway in his place, if they’d ever sipped bourbon in the same bar, and he’d gotten a little salacious with a waitress.
Ursula K Le Guin lives in Portland, Oregon. She believes in the power of the imagination. She can be commandingly forthright, but apparently balances her targeted tirades with gentle humour. Any of which draws me to her already.
So I’ll be hunting out this Californian octogenarian’s story, and looking into how she might inspire me. What she might teach me. Whether she hosts writers in residence, I hear Portland’s got quite the craft beer scene…
Finally, my tasks for week one:
1. Write a letter to someone who inspires me
Someone once told me how important it was to thank the people who inspire you. All of them. She explained that it seemed to be a relatively rare thing, even for people you expect would be almost burdened with kudos. And I imagine it is a wonderful compliment, a warm affirmation.
So I thought about the people who inspired me at the time, and then I went and worked another bake shift. But the idea got caught somewhere inside, like bubblegum in the carpet of my mind. And now it is time to follow through. After all, the same person convinced me to start writing again.
I need to do this one in the first week, to have any chance of receiving a reply by week thirteen. Am I even right to be hoping for a response? Ego check.
2. Find community
In my experience to date, writing is a solo pursuit. Lonely isn’t the right term, because I don’t miss company when I write. And yet somehow I find the presence of other people useful, comforting. I like to sit in a cafe, and focus on the page or screen. There, away from the lawns, the house bus, the Internet, my distractions are different. Someone’s pose, or tone, or half-heard conversation. Maybe the way they wear their sunglasses, or nibble at their bagel, or berate their child, that gets stored, or absorbed.
But there’s also that people-need of mine which isn’t writing specific. That desire to share and exchange notes about purpose, about vocation. One of the best parts about working in a busy kitchen, was the banter, the competition to craft the best shepherds pie, the nicknames for customers, the high-fives in recognition to a particularly well curated morning playlist. I need to find a writers kitchen.
I live in a tiny town, so people are a limited resource. Maybe I need to look online. Or do a few more trips around the country to do interviews with novelists, journalists. Or perhaps it’s as simple as finding out who the other person is who buys the German rye bread from the supermarket down the road.
3. Set long-term writing goals for the thirteen weeks
I need to have some longer term goals, and I need to set them early. I also need a range of interesting tasks lined up, so that there’s always a new challenge.
At the moment I’m hoping to achieve the following over the next 88…87 days, but I need to understand whether it is aspirational, underwhelming, or madness:
- Write twice a week about the process, my experiences etc.
- Write and submit a short story, and start another one
- Write a feature story and submit it for publication
- Re-read the manuscript of my first novel, then decide whether I move forward with it, or start a new one
- Determine what part writing will play in my life, from day 89
Ok, I’ve got a craving for rye bread. Peace out.
Below the fold
This section is for trivia, photos, links, ideas. Non-essentials. Because often what we cast aside can be as useful as the things I cling to.
Muses I considered and then discarded for this week: John Pilger (old skool investigative journalist), Ira Glass (public radio story sponsor), Ernest Hemingway (American author), Colleen Patrick-Goudreau (compassionate vegan).
I discovered the website of the “Poets & Writers” magazine last week, as they host a stupendous list of publishers. It gives me hope of finding a partnership, if not a fortune:
One of the photos I considered for this posting, then rejected, because I couldn’t find any way in which it was relevant: