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Online early

Wednesday, 18th January 2006

Online early

I want to find a piece that was on Radio 4’s ‘P.M.’ current affairs show last week. There was an item on happiness prompted by report that not surprisingly says that only 3.3% of people are happy in Zimbabwe compared to 73% in North America. To counter this, another survey was showing that 73% of those in the U.S. have a mental health problem – are they the same group of people? Happy one day, depressed the next and interviewed separately on Monday then Tuesday.

Toby did a poo!

He was pleased at pants. I got a big hug. He’s out of bed. Its as if he’s just won a silver cup for swimming. I got the full story from Toby and his Mum.

It was ‘this long.’ I am told, as he grabs a roll of Christmas paper and estimates the thing at nearly a foot long. No wonder he was immobilised, it must have been like being impaled on the handle of a cricket bat.

Do you want more? Texture, colour?

Wanda took a look to make sure there was neither blood nor mucus in it. Nope. Just a long, stiff, dark coloured shit.

‘Did you give it a name?’ I asked, pulling his leg.

‘Can I take a picture of it?’

I tore an empty wrapping paper tube off at about the length Toby says it was.

‘Should we make one out of papier-mâché?’

I shouldn’t tease. You know me. I might have fished it from the toilet bowl and photographed it had I had the chance.

‘Should we bury it like one of the pets and put up a cross?’

You have to laugh; they were – giggles from Toby, Mum relieved.

He wanted to get back to school in time for some lunchtime football contest. ‘Wet Day Play’ though, it is pissing it down. He stays at home.

The lesson we have learnt?

Keep the fluids going. Keep the fibre going. Cut out the Pick ‘n Mix.

The what?

I’ve been looking for explanations, what might have bunged him up solid in the first place. I worry that 50p of Pick ‘n Mix after school the other day might have been a start. As well as loving corn he used to devour Broccoli – I wish he’d get back onto the Broccoli. Baked potatoes are fine, though he won’t touch cooked carrots. Oh well. A bowl of carrot and cucumber sticks goes down well.

How I write

Anything can set me off. I can chase an idea; pull at the thread like a cat with a ball of wool. It is just as thrilling and frustrating, I pill at the wool, the ball, the essence of the idea bouncing tantalisingly just out of reach – then the thread snags and I lose it. Or get distracted.

I like to put cuttings into a scrapbook, I look to take pictures, and I like to follow a whim a go places. I prefer research to writing, I must do. I prefer writing to finishing something. I hate editing; I get in such a mess. The next idea is generally the next best thing. Like the first few weeks of a new love affair.

I write into an iBook. I used to have a Psion, more portable, it went with my in my pocket everywhere – I could flick it open at a moment’s notice and write. The iBook is too cumbersome, too indiscrete, and too slow to open and close!

I write very early in the morning, between 4.00 a.m. and 5.00 a.m. is best for me. Using a computer that is plugged into the Internet is not such a good idea though. In the summer I might take the car onto the South Down, walk down towards Cuckmere River, and sit on a bench there.

I write in my ‘office,’ this little room with no phone or Internet access. On a good day, I can do three hours here.

I write in bed, iBook on a plank of wood, propped up with several pillows. I like to get tied, push the iBook away, pull a ‘V’ shaped pillow over my head, clamp it in place with my arms to shut out the light, cross my legs and drift. I visualise what I am writing, I see scenes. I may sleep for ten minutes or twenty.

Does the system work? Clearly not.

I have files, floppies, folders and Zip discs, I have CD-Roms and memory sticks packed with ‘stuff.’ On currant form I send something out once a decade, then retreat – the reply can be positive or negative, once the manuscript has left the building I lose all faith in it. If I could sell half-baked ideas, I’d be rich. You can’t. My head doesn’t seem capable of going beyond the pitch, the plot, a synopsis or treatment. Why should I change? I’ve not solved my problem, yet the compulsion to write is still great.

I’m in bed now, writing. I was working on ‘Enter@Random.’

I’ve added a couple of characters and am starting to dislike it – there’s always a tendency to compare it with something I may have read or seen on TV or a film. Do I then avoid any suggestion of it going that way or exploit this knowledge to replicate the pace and keep it true to a genre?

Perhaps I have to write for another ten years and from two million words extract enough to make one novel?

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