No more be grieved at that which thou hast done:
Roses have thorns, and silver fountains mud,
Clouds and eclipses stain both moon and sun,
And loathsome canker lives in sweetest bud.
All men make faults, and even I in this,
Authórizing thy trespass with compare,
Myself corrupting salving thy amiss,
Excusing thy sins more than thy sins are:
For to thy sensual fault I bring in sense--
Thy adverse party is thy advocate--
And ‘gainst myself a lawful plea commence.
Such civil war is in my love and hate,
That I an áccessory needs must be
To that sweet thief which sourly robs from me.
I have got good (ish) at writing about other people, their feelings, and the way they sit in the world. I've even got quite good at making them live on the page, and I'd go as far as to say that despite my choice for These Matters of not letting you, the reader, directly into the mind of any of the characters, I've got to the stage where I can relate what is happening to them internally pretty well without making it explicit. What I haven't got good at is writing about the way I feel. Regular readers might find that sentence a bit strange, because I write a lot about myself on here, and a lot of it is about how I feel and how I am. But I struggle - honestly - to relate the actual 'way it feels to be me', what the philosophers might call the phenomenology of my experience. I sometimes nudge in that direction, and it is often verbal rather than written down. I was quite pleased, for example, with the description of my own internal landscape as like being at the junction of four separate rooms with different music in a nightclub, all four very loud and competing for attention, preventing me choosing where I put my focus.
So I steal. I have done this in several places in These Matters, using the same method mentioned by Hector: “The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – that you'd thought special, particular to you. And here it is, set down by someone else, a person you've never met, maybe even someone long dead. And it's as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.” What I have done is stolen someone else's words and put them in the mouth of one of my characters. In the case of Caroline de Winter, I gave her Shakespeare's lines:
Doubt thou the stars are fire,
Doubt that the sun doth move,
Doubt truth to be a liar,
But never doubt I love.
She was fifty years or so ahead of time with those, and the implication is that she thought of them first. Just as Elizabeth's poem, supposedly written for the Duke of Anjou, appears much earlier than it should (and I quote here the middle verse as particularly apposite):
My care is like my shadow in the sun,
Follows me flying, flies when I pursue it,
Stands and lies by me, doth what I have done.
His too familiar care doth make me rue it.
No means I find to rid him from my breast,
Till by the end of things it be supprest.
I have festooned the site with gobbets, and perhaps I have gone far wrong in doing so. My intention has never been to impress an examiner on my own score. I would like to be able to sell enough books to just do this writing thing, but I'll settle for doing it as a hobby, but there's no mark scheme for historical fiction, no formula for creating a best-seller. There probably is, to be fair. There's probably someone out there teaching a creative writing course where they tell you the elements of a good story, and how to make it attractive to a particular target audience. That's not really my agenda, but I wouldn't object if an audience were to come into being. I write - on here, These Matters, the flash fictions, all of it - because somehow it's better out of my head than swimming around in it. I sometimes do a free-form word dump into the note-taker on my phone, because it seems to free up some operating capacity in my brain:
I am the swirling fire of my mind. It does not rest, finding instead a new way of torturing at every turn
A new worst thought that brings only guilt, doubt, shame.
And you are that shame.
All that is good in me is lost by the choice to drag you down with all that is wrong in me.
Fear should not be the decider.
But it is.
I'm not entirely sure that those words are for sharing, but that is partly the point. I don't find it easy to write structured poetry or song lyrics, for that matter, because I come up with a form of words that matches the thought, and then I can't see it changed without feeling like the thought has somehow become corrupted. I can edit other people's work (and I should be doing so in one case!) because I feel like I can take their clumsily expressed thoughts and clarify them. But when I - or someone else - tries to do that to my words, I end up feeling like they are asking me to revise my thoughts, not my words.
Which is why, in the end, I choose to use so many examples of other people's words that express a thought just so:
And on I read until the day was gone;
And I sat in regret of all the things I've done;
For all that I've blessed, and all that I've wronged.
In dreams until my death I will wander on.
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought