There are some things I love about autumn: the main one being the excuse to finally put the central heating on and light the fire. At the same time, there are some things that are difficult about autumn. One of them is the very visible decay of the trees - especially in Sheffield, where there are many trees - which has that sort of desperate beauty for a few moments in the sunshine, followed in this particular autumn by three solid days of rain and knee-deep mulch everywhere. It's easy enough to moan that it is a rubbish season, lacking winter's potential for snow days, spring's promise and summer's delivery; but it does seem to be some people's favourite. For me, it's the fact that winter, with its short daylight, its lack of life, follows. That's what makes autumn my least favourite of the seasons. Those same darkening evenings and cold mornings associate themselves almost by force with some dreadful things that have happened, as though the bad stuff just wouldn't have happened if the day was light a bit longer or a few degrees warmer. Of course it would, but the driving rain just makes it feel that extra notch bad. When I think back over some of my memories that do belong in the autumn, there are some happy ones where the autumn-ness of the memory is absent, almost as though the day itself wasn't real but the memory is. Memories are a bit like that: I have sometimes recounted a memory to someone who was also there, and remembers some detail differently (incompatibly, indeed). Then you doubt yourself, because the memory felt so certain until someone called it into question.
When I'm writing These Matters, I have adopted a particular stance in terms of how I tell the story that puts that ambiguity there in the moment, rather than it being in the recall of the moment. That is to say, there are scenes of great emotion between two characters where the emotion has to come out in what they say, rather than digging into their inner goings-on. I've really tried to bring out those moments, and I would even go as far as to say that sometimes they are successful, in the way that a well-acted scene caught on camera can carry all the feelings without them being spelled out. It's at odds with an alternative style of narration that I've tried a bit with the flash fictions, where the inner monologue (if that's the right term for it) is the driver, and the individual's experience is the story, rather than there being a story with characters in it. Those flashes have a confessional feel to them, to the extent that I am just not ready to share some of them. In any case, they feel like partly a way of allowing that bit of me as a writer out, and partly as a way of telling a different set of stories. Some of them are transparently personal, as I have already hinted, and to call them 'fiction' is a bit of a stretch because they are so closely modelled on real experience. Those flashes are an attempt to tell a (part of a) story in the shortest medium I find practical, whereas this blog is probably a hundred thousand words or so of me telling my story. No one I've ever got to know well has accused me of being terse...
So why the moan about NaNoWriMo? I find it hard enough to focus myself on writing novels, flash fiction and this blog, what with professional responsibility (as in, I have to at least pretend to do my job properly), parenting responsibility (I have to at least pretend etc), half an eye on the frankly decrepit condition of my physical person (leading to something as dangerous and potentially carcinogenic as exercise), and a sideline in trying to play music. There's a whole bunch of people on Twitter who seem to be able to write all the time (although these same people seem to appear quite frequently on Twitter, suspiciously), and who have taken the step of updating their progress on their Twitter profiles. So, Twitter, balls to it. I might write a reasonable amount of book IV in November, but I also might not. And I refuse to do it badly. So, we'll see how it goes. But if you catch me on Twitter writing about how many words I've written, feel free to @ me and remind me of this post. Twitter has the potential to drive me up the wall at the best of times, but this particular trope is extra-frustrating. And let me confirm: it's not the other people that I hold responsible for this. It's just a bit of jealousy, I suppose, that they can when I generally can't (or won't).
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought