Wednesday 20 January 2016

Under the Glass... Five: Writerly Diligence

I’ll admit, I’ve fallen off the wagon. 

The wagon in question being writing. I’ve barely written a sausage in three months. (Indeed, the log on my computer tells me that it has been 101 days since I last had a ‘proper’ go at my Death of a Dreamonger revision.) 

Samuel Johnson, on his tour through Scotland gave some of his typically useful and kind advice.

"A man may write at any time, if he will set himself doggedly to it."

Not sure why I haven’t been quite so dogged of late; it’s not been through lack of ideas, nor has it been any kind of crippling self-confidence thing - I’ve just been…lazy.

I may blame it on shorter days, or the fact I am trying to have earlier nights; or that after I have worked, cooked, cleaned and read a few chapters, I’m just not in the mood.

This causes me a bit of a problem - because I’m not sure what else I am meant to do with my life. I work, but I only do that to fund my writing life. I read, but that’s not producing anything. I go to museums and theatres, I drink with friends and eat with family - but without writing I feel I am doing nothing. I start to wonder if I am just a burden on our fragile natural resources and London’s limited cheap(er) living space.

Samuel Johnson himself went through great swathes of his life without writing anything, sometimes for years at a time, and he produced a body of work that could be described as ‘not too shabby’.

And, typically for him, Samuel Johnson also offers some genuine words of sympathy for the lazy writer.

“Composition is for the most part an effort of slow diligence and steady perseverance, to which the mind is dragged by necessity or resolution, and from which the attention is every moment starting to more delightful amusements.”

I sometimes wonder what Johnson would make of our world now. I have the suspicion that he wouldn’t have made so much of himself, he was almost chronically prone to distraction in the life he led; what would he do in a world where youtube offers millions of easily digestible nuggets of information, there’s just one more personality quiz to decide ‘what kind of house-elf are you?’ and there are another 50 hilarious lists of auto-correct fails.

My own diligence may be very, very slow, but I do also persevere. Maybe I should make a resolution and drag myself back to it…after the next youtube video of course.

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