Writing, Studying, and The National

Things have been a bit busy lately. I’m revising for exams in under four weeks. The only part I’m confident on is the creative writing one; other areas — art history, classical studies, and religious tourism — feel like a huge, watery expanse, in which I’m flailing in. (If only there was an exam on procrastination.)

Besides that, I’m continuing to work on my novel between some house decorating. The novel is going okay — the decorating better. I would like to say the novel is wonderful. But in truth, it’s mediocre at best. I’m learning as I go along. But consistency is the key. Routine is paramount. So, I’m writing each day, with a minimum quota of 1,000 words. I’m slowing things down this time. I have learned that plots are unavoidable. Whether you pre-plan or unravel as you go, it is unavoidable. At some stage you have to consider it.

There’s that famous quote by E.M. Forster:

‘The king died and then the queen died is a story. The king died and the queen died of grief is the plot’.

Things happen, but it is the why they happen that makes for an interesting story. Your characters are capable of thought, motivated by memories and desires, wracked with fears and guilt. All these things drive them. And it is their drive and desire — and the conflict with other characters’s desires — that form the plot, and moves the story along. And with that in mind, it’s worthwhile drawing up a loose roadmap. So you know where your characters are heading to at least, with some milestones along the way.

Unfortunately, all this leaves little time for any other writing, or reading the wonderful, insightful blogs, and stories here. I’m still writing a story I started for the ‘bitter’ daily prompt a few days ago — a story about a hostile, corporate takeover with a murderous twist — which I may pick up on later.

Finally, I was excited to hear The National announce a new single today, the fantastically titled The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness. If you’re unfamiliar with The National, I urge you to check them out today. I remember picking up their album Alligator some twelve years ago, and was struck by three things: the rapturous melodies; the wry, heartbreaking lyrics; and Matt Berninger’s dark, desperate baritone. And with their seventh studio album on the way in September, those things remain strong and fascinate me still.

For me, their music always had that rich, melodious quality you got from early R.E.M. But whereas those Georgian rockers pandered to the angst-ridden student, The National speak to the middle-aged, distressed, white-collar corporate slave; to someone on the verge of another breakdown, pushed nearer towards a precipice of failing relationships and unfulfilled desires. Not happy listening you would think. But their lyrics often sound like a cross between Morrissey and the poetry of John Berryman. The words are so acerbic, and dripping with dark pathos, humour, longing, and self-deprecation, it’s difficult not to laugh or at least smile in awe.


13 Replies to “Writing, Studying, and The National”

    1. Great to hear. It sounds sooo good. But September seems so far away. 🙂 I will be waiting in line when tickets go on sale next week. Ever seen them live, Jim?


  1. Religious tourism- a whole subject on that? Wow. Well done with progress on the novel- is that the one you worked on over Nov 2016? NaNoWriMo drained me- 7 months on and I’ve not touchef my novel. I saw The National at a festival in Melbourne in 2012 I think it was- I wasn’t familiar with them and it was great to stumble across their set 😊

    Liked by 2 people

    1. There’s a theory that says tourism itself is a religious experience — we pilgrimage and expect new, possible life changing experiences. NaNoWriMo drained me too. I’ve written that off as ‘experience’. This is something new. Any plans on picking yours up again, or possibly start something new? Glad you enjoyed The National. I hope to finally see them this year.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, that is true. Travel is a change agent. Yes ‘experience’ I won’t be repeating…I have a fear of never writing anything half decent again and it’s crippling. I think I just need to start small. I will get back to it- it is a story I have worked on for years, pre-nanowrimo. Your post was inspiring.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes starting small is a good idea. Writing regularly is key, I find. And I’ve come to view the debilitation as part of the process. Good luck with whatever you decide to write next.

        Liked by 1 person

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