My life is full of moments when I ‘do’ and moments when I ‘do not’. When I ‘do’, whatever I do, I do it as well as I can (mostly not very) and give it all the concentration I can muster. It doesn’t come easy to me, concentration: it’s an elusive beast and it slips through my, oh, what do you call them? Fingers, of course, and I… now, where was I?
When I ‘don’t’, whatever it is that I don’t, I write. It is what I do when my mind is otherwise unoccupied. It is what I do whenever I am not doing something else.
Life is cram-packed with ‘something elses’, they should outweigh writing many, many times over, but they don’t. Writing is, for me, an every day (everyday?) pastime. Other things eg buying new shoes, getting my hair cut, making perfect sense, squelching bare-foot through mud, do not happen anything like so regularly. (Although having written it down, I will definitely attempt to make the latter a more regular feature of my life.) Writing time is when my mind is at its most lively, but it is also its own ‘down time’ and even I am at a loss to explain it.
Back in the day, when it all seemed to matter a lot more, I would approach an evening at the typewriter with a sense of foreboding. I had to get something down on paper, but I had no idea what (nor indeed, who, why or when). I would sit and I would fret (on occasions I would fret and sit, just for a change) and I would write a first line over and over and over until, eventually, my mind began to lose both patience and interest and, quite suddenly, I would find myself with more lines in my head than I could fit on a page and my main issue was editing all of the ‘rabbit’ down to a reasonable length, ensuring that, hopefully, the punchline arrived before untimely death. Everything hit the page in such a hurry that deciphering a first draft often required the services of either a Rosetta Stone scholar or a precocious three year old.
When I wrote with my dear chum, the inestimable Mr Underfelt, we would get together just one night each week and spend the entire evening yelling ever more ludicrous jokes and situations at one another before retreating to our separate abodes where we each attempted to make some sense of it. We each did, but it was seldom the same sense. Next-week read-throughs – no internet back then – were an hilarious joy. It is much more fun to laugh other people’s jokes – especially when they are funnier than your own. (Fortunately I had the neatest handwriting, so I got to slip some of mine in when no-one was looking.) This was when I learned that it is only possible to write well when you write lots.
Now, of course, I seldom worry over what I am going to write about because, as I am sure you are aware, most of the time I write about precisely nothing. I sit at the laptop every evening with an empty mind when the day’s doings are over and I write about whatever is enjoying the space up there. It’s when I do what I do, and I do it whenever the doing is done.
It’s what I do.