Great comedy gig last night: Simon Amstell, supported by Arnab Chanda. I'd never heard of Mr Chanda but he was very funny. "What do butterflies get in their tummies when they're nervous? It can't be butterflies. They would just be pregnant."
There were similarities between the two acts: both men were skinny, clever, fizzing with energy, slightly surreal, self-deprecating, self-mocking. Simon Amstell was on top form, juggling the subjects of being Jewish, shy, gay, single and famous, with great courage and vulnerability. I went with my Picky Friend who has a well-developed critical faculty. After the show, PF unhesitatingly scored it nine out of ten, commenting 'if I ever gave anything a ten, it would have had a ten'.
And tonight: The Unthanks, with my Paramour, which I suspect will be every bit as good, albeit of course very different.
Before then, though, I am going to try to produce another 2000 words (and do various jobs as well, sigh). I'm finding writing really hard at the moment. Each word takes a lot of effort and grunting, as if I haven't had enough fibre in my writing diet. It's not always like this: sometimes the writing flows easily, more often it's an enjoyable challenge. But I think writers need to find ways to write through the patches where the going is hard.
I've been reading some poems by Alice Walker. I read poetry a lot, which doesn't equate to reading a lot of poetry, because I'll often read a poem several times, slowly. This is because I like poetry, yet I've been struggling with Alice Walker's poems. She writes about interesting subjects: feminism, family, racism, love. But it seems to me that her poetry doesn't have the layers, colours, depths that I find in the poems I love best, such as those by Carol Ann Duffy or Seamus Heaney. Then I found a line that struck me in one of the few pieces of prose in the book: 'there is only waiting for poetry, there is no solicitation.' I wonder whether this is why I don't get on so well with her poetry: because she didn't write through the times where writing was hard, and so didn't develop the full range of her abilities to express herself.
Then again, maybe I'm wondering that because I want some justification for my current struggle, and really Alice Walker is a fine poet who I don't get because I'm not clever enough, or not American enough, or not mixed-race enough, or something. Because far from waiting for the muse to strike, I'm soliciting like anything; in fact, I'll probably get arrested any day now.
What do you think? Do you write when writing is, as my dear friend Beleaguered Squirrel so eloquently put it in her latest blog post, like trying to pull a dead cat through your own gut? Or do you only write when you feel inspired? Or some combination of the two?