“How was your break?” she asked.
I was taken back. Break? What the hell was she . . . ?
Ahhhhhh! Break! Christmas! New Years! That must be what she meant.
A lovely lady, don’t get me wrong. I know her through friends. From the look of things, part of her break was spent in a much sunnier clime than this one. I guess for her and her husband who presumably works and her kids who are at school (I believe they are studying something having to do with wealth) a break would be a real and tangible thing.
But I stumbled somewhat in my reply to her.
“I didn’t really get a break,” I think I said. “I mean,” I added, “I don’t really have a job at the moment to have a break from.”
But this made it sound like I’ve been sitting in a basement drinking Lucky for the last month and I didn’t want to give that impression, so I added: “But I did manage to write half a novel, or so.”
And it’s true, I did, that’s what I’ve been doing.
It started innocently enough. I didn’t mean to be writing a novel. It started, in fact, from a post I wrote on here about teaching piano lessons again after all these years. And then I read a novel that was written in the form of a journal. And then I wondered if I could marry these two things – a man thrust into a situation where he is teaching piano lessons after years and years, and a fictitious journal, and before I knew it, I had 10,000 words or so.
Just a little every day, that’s all it takes. 500 words or so. You take the odd day off, but now and then you surprise yourself and write 1,000. And soon they add up.
There comes a point when the writing starts to gather momentum and you achieve what I think of as critical mass – you know you have something there on paper that seems of a fine enough quality that it seems impossible stop, the only option is to keep going.
Once you have achieved critical mass, and you have some sense of where you’re going, then all you really need to do is keep at it with some sense of discipline, but at this point it feels more like note-taking than anything else.
You can see from my photos that this is all hand-written, some of it at my favourite table at Caffe Beano, some of it at my kitchen table.
It is written in a green-covered “Writer’s Block” graph paper notebook using a Pentel “Kerry” mechanical pencil loaded with Faber-Castell Super-Polymer 0.7 B leads. For this particular project, nothing else will do. If I lost the pencil I would probably give up and if something happened to the notebook, then the great Canadian novel would disappear like so much smoke and I would be very sad. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I am always aware of exactly where that notebook and pencil are.
The next steps are quite obvious. I need to stay patient, doing a little more every day, making discoveries about the characters and the story as I proceed. And then when I think I am finished, and not before (I have another notebook ready to go, volume 2 as it were) I will have to go through the labourious and somewhat clerical task of entering it into the old MacBook.
And from there, well, who knows? Maybe I’ll get lucky and find a good publisher and my little book will sell millions of copies and I’ll be rich and famous. Or maybe not.
And so that is the long and truthful answer as to how my break was. It just means different things to different people, I guess.
Any further questions?
Today (January 13) is the day James Joyce passed away in 1941. Here is a strange little animation with Joyce (at least his statue) reading an excerpt from Finnegans Wake. I chose this one because of the subtitles which make it easier to appreciate the tremendous word play and playfulness of the language . . .
Thanks for reading!