Sunday, 17 August 2014

Why does time fly? Rhetoric for beginners....A good moan....

The title of this post is purely rhetorical. When we belong to the work force, time is regulated by the necessity to do the job, but I'm still looking for the equivalent of organization now I'm beyond the average working age - but certainly not if I consider myself an "artist" (a label I do not really like to use for myself). It's 10 years since I left official employment and got my pension instead, but that's only part of the story. What I really did was to stop doing things I disliked, which included most of the English and singing teaching (voice training) that I did, but continued doing things I enjoyed. I had quit the theatre in 1997, frustrated and depressed with the parts I got, and feeling too "foreign", language-wise to go on to character acting here in Germany. I had already tried to move back into the UK and failed miserably because my plans were too vague, my ambitions unformed, someone I thought might help me disappointing (I should never even have contemplated that - put not your trust in princes) and my feelings about the UK as a place to live had changed irrevocably, as I discovered there after being homesick for 30 years. Maybe this is partly because I consider myself to be a European, and there are surprisingly few genuine Europeans in the UK. People cling on to historical values as quality of life long after they are outdated and can only be described as quaint (like my Aunt buying a new lipstick because the royal train was due to pass through her town). So I came back to Germany. There are things I don't really like about it here, but my standard of living (including non-private access to medical care) is higher here than it could be in the UK (judging by what I know of the plight of people whose desperate need for immediate treatment does not mean that they will get it), given my resources, and that is a consideration.

So where is all this rhetoric leading? 

I get a newsletter called "Brain Pickings" every Sunday and this week I find what's in there so relevant for me personally that I am comforted. I am not alone in searching for the way to go! Ah, but we know that, those who are looking, and those who probably don't need or even want them are unaware of the choices.

Take this quote of a quote by Paul Graham:

"What you should not do, I think, is worry about the opinion of anyone beyond your friends. You shouldn’t worry about prestige. Prestige is the opinion of the rest of the world."

There's a lot more in this vein HERE and a link to the orginal article quoted.

I'm not guilty of wanting prestige (or expecting it). In fact, I'm quite the opposite having had modesty and humility drilled into me as a child. Humility is related to humiliation - I suppose that's something we all fear, and I wonder (and can take a guess at) what kind of humiliation my mother must have gone through to make her what she was and yet think it was the way I should be? 

And now I have to stumble even more! What I have experienced from my friends has largely consisted of indifference, especially to my writing. Like all would-be or established authors, I reason with my plot (story) and my perpetrators (characters). Sometimes I talk about them if I can find someone to listen. Never once has anyone expressed a desire to read what I'm writing or have written. That saddens me because up to today I thought I was writing for an audience as well as for my own pleasure. The nearest to interest has been a sympathetic nod to the tune of 'let her get on with it - it keeps her busy' or inferring that a plot is unrealistic. But, for instance, last week I saw two scripted reality programmes (connected with that particular criticism) that dealt with two of the themes in my latest book! Wow! But I had already written those parts of the book, so I canot be accused of plagiarism. In my stories I try to deal with elements that could exist on the basis of "what if...?" I am strongly influenced by the fact that no one looks like a child abuser, a murderer, a shop-lifter etc. So my books do not contain much description of looks except when necessary for the story-line.

So today - a RED LETTER day - I am starting a new life - again - reinventing myself (until I hit on the right me?)! I've have indulged the urge to write quite a lot down the years, both professionally as a school-book contributor, and especially since I've been writing for one set of characters (with additional characters as needed dramaturgically) in one place (an English village - entirely fictional). I'm currently finishing the 4th book in this series. The first one is twice the length of a normal novel because I could not find any way of finishing it (new story lines kept popping up) and did not know I would be writing about the characters again, so there had to be a few ends tied up before I could! 

But as in life, the ends are not all tied till after death, so I started up again, completed (and then more or less rewrote) two novels for NANOWRIMO and have a 4th story near completion outside that organization. I also have two new ideas that are only titles and vague ideas as yet, but one of which will be written this coming November (Why November? Go to the nanowrimo link for clues!). I've been rereading my own books for the last few weeks and am greatly entertained by them. The months of September and October will be usefully spent inserting corrections overlooked last time and getting rid of any contradictions (such as changing a name and not remembering why - or the colour of a car, as happened in one book). And yes, I do have synopses and what I call an Identikit of characters and addresses, and that is updated as needed, but even so, when you've written round 70 000 words, it's an editor you really need: a second pair of eyes and a brain that does not try to take over what you are doing, but supports it technically!

Friends anxious to be supportive do not seem to exist and I cannot afford to pay one, so it must be me - a one-man/woman band again. As a painter (another dream I had all my working life) I was in the end as puzzled about many of my paintings (i.e. the abstracts) as everyone else. The figurative ones are self-explanatory, but abstract can't be explained per se. Even so reception should not be confined to invisibility i.e. ignorance/being ignored - I answer any questions as well as I can since abstracts come into existence rather than being formulated (titles are often used as props - if you tell people that a green splodge is a tree, it becomes one). I had and have the satisfaction of my figurative paintings being accepted (acceptable) to a certain extent, so I should not complain, should I? And one or two of my abstracts have at least received a form of acceptance that includes compliments, but does not actually lead to anyone wanting to buy one (i.e. live with one on a permanent basis)! In other words, I can give them away... which also includes figuratives, of course, but... 

One constant has always been music, even after saying goodbye professional singing. I play the piano nearly every day, but the singing simply had to stop - it was too painful to think about the 100 or more roles I sang on the opera stage and I could find no way of filling that gap vocally. I do not belong to the race of professional singers that lives on accolades and a fondness for their past achievements that energizes them from dawn to dawn (not dusk as that would exclude nights), so I transferred my musical energy into arranging for and directing choirs. All my own inventions, of course, since I always wanted to do things my way... This has the happy component of performance. The narcissism that put me on the stage is still part of my character - I don't seem to be able to smother that!

Between arranging, painting and writing, I find my days pass in a rush. My mother would have said "Jack of all trades" - malicious, of course, especially coming from someone who never made anything of her own talents. Jealousy? I was once told that resentment is very close to jealousy. I sadly inherited not only her modesty, but also her humility - which on reflection was only a defence, a protective device against attack on the lines of 'If I am already at the bottom of the heap, I can't get any further down, so don't even bother trying'. Her idea was that if you didn't do something you could not fail, whereas I think that if you don't have a go, you have already failed! How she would have hated that idea. So in that way I have moved on!

Why do I still think of my mother? In a panic not to be like her? She's been dead more than 24 years. A wasted life in many ways. She lived a long time and read all the classics and all the biographies in the library, but her own biography was so lacking in events as she got older that I cannot take her as a role model. Instead, I shall be my own role model and just carrying on. I'll start today, by making the momentous decision of whether to kill the vicar off as he is meditating in his parish church at dead of night. Now I think about it, it's a good idea - one that has been waiting to be thought of! I need a dramatic ending for my book and this will be it - well almost. The killer already has several corpses to his credit. I must not leave the (fictional?) reader or myself (factual) in any doubt about his guilt. Life goes on...

For the record, my novels up to now bear the titles:

Friends for life

Finch Folly (sometimes Finch's folly)
Barn Dance
Bell Tower Blues

Still unwritten but planned are:

Too many cooks
The beachhut murders

In contrast to the irrelevance of titles of abstract paintings, the titles of novels are an important element! The one I am finishing at the moment "Bell Tower Blues" is aln most a semi-abstract title, since the story moves away from the bell tower (returning to it only in reference) and 'blues' are basically a jazz style. But the implications of the blues are bound up in a particular feeling and no longer just a jazz style. The title "Too many cooks" came to me as I was driving through a village in Northern France. The strange name of the village adapted to Huddle Court. In a jiffy it became a mansion and then a school for wayward teenagers. You'll have to read the book to find out more!  

The more I write, the more powerful I become as a writer - that does not mean that I am a powerful writer!!! only that a writer develops concrete powers of jurisdiction over what he or she writes and the ability to slip into the role of a character increases. My decision-making becomes more lucid as I go on, although it is said that characters take over. That may be true, but only until they are struck down (by the author) if they become too intrusive or disliked (by the author). Going back over and revising earlier works is proof of all of this. But then, we all either move on or stay still in our own character development. That is really the only choice we have, since we cannot go backwards!

For me, the blank page is like an empty stage, a raw melody, or an unpainted canvas. The most curious part of pursuing these three forms of creativity (activity) is that the instruments are basically the same: the desire for harmony, colour and coherence being the strongest impulses.