Got the story just can’t write it (2)

And suddenly the logjam of doubt over how to write the story gives way.

Don’t really know what changed – there was no Eureka I gottit! moment – just, I feel that my mind once again is open … The hypnosis is over and no-one / Calls encore to the song … (a stretch to quote these lines from Louis MacNeice’s Autumn Journal, because the poet was writing about lost love, and I’m not equating being stuck in writing a story with the tragedy of lost love, but the feeling seems apposite.

(Incidentally, MacNeice follows this passage with one of my all time favourite lines of poetry: When we are out of love, how were we ever in it?)

The key to getting the draft moving seems to have been the emergence of the voice of the narrative, or, rather, the voices, two of them, one sardonic, bitter, and morose, the other tired and cynical but at the same time measured and elegiac.

So, despite the ever present doubts, and the conviction that everything I write deserves the old, derisive soccer chant, shouted in sing-song unison from the terraces – What a load of rubbish! – despite all that, the draft – messy, unpredictable, saltatory, tangential, frustrating, as always – stumbles forwards.

Until the next logjam.


Take a deep breath and …

Got the story. Just can’t write it.

Can’t find voice and tone. Can’t decide point (or points) of view, linear or non-linear time.

Usual remedy #1: Walk and ‘talk the story’ into digital voice recorder, then transcribe. But voice recorder needs bare hands, so risk frost bite just holding it, and fingers too cold to manipulate it, anyway.

Usual remedy #2: Take a break from the story, work on something else, come back to it fresh, and … And that didn’t work.

Usual remedy #3: Write any old stuff until words start to flow, so wrote pages and pages of rubbish (always do, of course) and … And that didn’t work either.

Usual remedy #4: Abort! But not ready to do that, not yet, not quite. Still feel it’ll work out in the end. (It’s happened before; always worked out in the past, in the end.)


Frustration like a boil.

All’s Well After All


Winter has been – still is – brutal and long, the world is going to pot in a flurry of hate and intolerance, the environment is as pristine as a sewer, your most trusted public servant, it turns out, has as much integrity as those helpful people who telephone you just as you’ve sat down to supper offering to remove a deadly virus from your computer if you’ll only give them your credit card details, your dog bit you, your cat has fleas, and there’s another snow storm coming.

But relax. Everything’s okay.

That’s how you feel – well, how I feel – after spending the day in the company of children, as I was privileged to do when I spent a day at Park Street Elementary School, in Fredericton, New Brunswick, last week, privileged because what more could you want than to be among such bright faces, such enthusiasm, such freely given trust, such easily provoked merriment?

High expectations come with the privilege, of course.

Like: Here we are. What have you got?

Like: One or two hundred faces looking up at you, waiting to be entertained or enlightened or, preferably (and optimistically on my part), both, as you wonder if the kids are seeing you as W.B. Yeats’ “comfortable kind of old scarecrow” in Among School Children, as you launch into talking about writing, and reading a few episodes from the books.


From being greeted at the door by a couple of charming and helpful student Ambassadors, through two presentations (130 grade 1-2 students in the first, 205 grade 3-5 in the second), to leaving with a gift bag and a warm note of thanks, feeling that the thanks should all be going the other way, how could you have a more fulfilling and uplifting day, convincing you that all is well with the world, after all?