Sunday, September 02, 2012

An accountability post for Dame Eleanor's writing group

Over at Dame Eleanor's writing group, here's what I said I would do:

--Main goal: finish two partially drafted chapters of the book manuscript. I have to write a couple of conference papers, too, but they are short and draw on some previously drafted work.

Actual progress: dream that I went to the two conferences, which in the dream were held at the same time, and forgot to go to the session where I was presenting a paper.
--This week: deck clearing, including the last few paragraphs of a chapter; polishing (references) for a piece that’s due, and looking at the overall picture.

 Actual progress: printing the book manuscript and seeing what's good, what's bad, and what's ugly. (Cue Clint Eastwood music here and also the image of a frazzled woman yelling questions about what to do next at an empty chair.)

--I’m writing these in a notebook, too, to help keep myself accountable.
Actual progress: Paralyzing indecision about what notebook to use. New Paperblanks one? Usual task notebook? Excel work record? Research journal in Word? What am I least likely to ignore?  That's a trick question: when the fit is upon me, I will ignore them all with equal aplomb. 

For writing inspiration, I have Simon Callow's Charles Dickens's Great Theater of the World and Claire Tomalin's The Invisible Woman. This is no news to anyone, but Dickens was a walker--20 miles a night, maybe, or more (30 miles) if he got really steamed up about something. This is in addition to putting on  and acting in plays, editing Household Words (and other magazines), working on plans for Urania House with Angela Burdett-Coutts, visiting his usual haunts with Wilkie Collins or John Forster, and did I mention writing prodigious amounts of prose all morning and into the afternoon? The usual polite walk for visitors, says Callow, was a 3-hour walk at 4 miles an hour, after which guests would eat dinner, play shuttlecock, put on plays, dance into the wee hours, and gamely try to keep up with their host.  

Question: If one walks as much as Dickens, or even half as much instead of 1/5 as much, might one write as much as Dickens?  Or might one fall over at the front of a classroom out of sheer exhaustion? 


Bavardess said...

I always imagined these Victorian novellists striding the streets of London while they worked out their plots, but had no idea they took it so seriously! 20 or 30 miles a day?! Presumably, that's only possible if you have some handy servants to take care of all those pesky household tasks that would otherwise suck up the writing hours.

Sisyphus said...

Hilarious! I vote for the prettiest notebook.

My writing is going to use the metaphor of the spa day --- maybe that would energize you to spend relaxing thinking time with the project?

Hey, if I walked as much as Dickens, I could eat whatever I like and still lose weight!

undine said...

Bavardess--to be fair, he didn't walk 30 miles routinely, but 20 miles is plenty (5 hours). And yes, household tasks would have slowed that down considerably!

Sisyphus--thanks for your vote! What I really want is something that is large enough for a wall but small enough for a book, online so I can see it but on paper so that it is private. In other words, something impossible. I will try the spa day!