Friday, 16 October 2009

Gigs and Writing

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?

11 comments:

Debs said...

I try and write whether I feel inspired or not, though don't manage to do so all the time.

Love the butterflies in the stomach bit.

Debi said...

Me too, Debs. Forcing ourselves through the hard times keeps the momentum going, even if you're convinced what you're writing will be chopped in the next draft.

My biggest problem is finding the time. I wish my output was as prolific as our dear Queenie's ...

And I also wish she knew how fab she is! Hang on in there, Yer Maj, and keep expectations of yourself realistic. You're doing fine!

Bernadette said...

I do try to write even when I don't feel like it, but if I push too hard I just produce rubbish and end up with a headache to boot.
So I try to go for a compromise - maybe I start a story - just 100 words, and make some notes for the rest - or edit and resub some other stuff, or read something I think will be inspiring. I know I never do my best writing when it feels like a really heavy battle.

There's always a possibility that Alice Walker is just not to your taste! We all like and appreciate different things so don't beat yourself up about it - it's nothing to do with you not being clever enough!

hilaryusfun said...

I commented! Gah, eaten by the interweb.

Will keep an eye out for Simon Anstell who I otherwise would have avoided. I don't recommend taking Picky Friend (or any friend) to this years Rhod Gilbert tour.....

Carol said...

I think you should keep at it even when you don't feel like it!! I'm sure that sometimes you'll produce stuff that your not happy with but I'm also sure that sometimes just by starting you get into it and the words will flow...

I like Simon Amstell on Never Mind the Buzzcocks so can imagine him being very funny live. Hehehe, the butterflies in tummies comment made me chortle :-)

C x

SpiralSkies said...

I have the opposite problem - dead cats in my brain because I just don't have the time to write anything. Until we're deprived of it, we forget that, actually, that 'forcing it out' is amazing agony.

I have tickets to see Simon Amstell in a couple of weeks. Looking forward to it even more now, hurrah!

HelenMHunt said...

I struggle with not having enough time or enough energy, rather than not feeling like it. Not sure that has an answer either.

Beleaguered Squirrel said...

When I'm writing I try and do it even when I'm not in the mood. Indeed I only ever seem to be in the mood when there's no time... as soon as there's time I'm not in the mood any more... but I'm pigheaded, so I do it anyway (sometimes). I find the stuff I write is often better than I expect it to be, even when I'm not in the mood. Also I get into the mood after I start - the very act of doing it can put me in the mood.

Anyway I think that first drafts are rarely that good. You need to force yourself to get something onto the paper, so that you can then craft it into something good. It's the editing bit I enjoy best, so I grit my teeth and put up with the dead-cat-in-gut thing so that I can get to the editing part.

Although at the moment I'm not writing at all, so, um, this is a bit academic...

Queenie said...

Interesting to see all the different approaches, thanks for that.
Hilary, really? Only, um, we've already got two tickets... I've never seen Rhod G in anything, not being a telly-watching type, but my Paramour thought he might be good. Oh well.

Shane said...

So convinced was I by your and PF's review, that next Monday I'll be seeing Simon Amtell in Wolverhampton. I hope he is received as well there. A big thank you for the direction/s.

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