On Writing, Cats, “Days Off”, and Stephen Fry

So it’s my first day off in a month or so (I still have too many jobs – but that, as they say, is another story), and I had every intention of spending it on the couch with Stephen Fry. It was with a great deal of anticipation that I awaited the opportunity to have said Fry whisper oh so very sweet nothings in my ear. The fact that he would be doing so via the medium of his latest autobiography, The Fry Chronicles, only served to whet my appetite. The man has what’s known in the business as a ‘way with words’. It is, for those of you following along at home, his Way. I had so very much been looking forward to wandering along his Way for weeks. The really rather reasonably priced hardback has been sitting on my desk, in turns tempting and mocking me, for quite some time. A day off (can you imagine!) spent in the company of one of our greatest wordsmiths and entertainers. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, I’m on the couch. Check. This is not really by choice. I don’t like writing on the couch if I can avoid it, but Loki has taken up residence on his desk chair (I only ever borrow it from him), and I haven’t the heart (or is it courage?) to shift him. Loki is, by all accounts, a wonderful pet but when crossed can too often take after his namesake. I do believe, as any self-respecting writer ought, that names carry power. I sometimes wonder if I might have been better served calling my little kitty Morpheus, or something even less laden, like Buttercup. But then, I have it backwards. As any cat owner will tell you, in the servant/master relationship cats have a very distinctive opinion on which of the two they are. One is only ever served by a cat in the way one is served by the weather, which is to say incidentally. At any rate, when Loki decides he wants his chair back it is far easier to concede defeat and regroup on the couch with the laptop than it is to try and force the issue. He simply cannot be reasoned with.

And so I find myself on the couch, as has already been established, but where is the promised Fry? Currently residing in my backpack three feet away (or possibly four – I simply have no head for spatial dimensions). He first took up residence there last Thursday for the purpose of entertaining me during my lunch breaks. And there, I fear, he must remain for some little time yet. This is because I find myself on the couch with my laptop firmly positioned where its name promised it would be most suitably employed, which is a long and rather Fry-esque way of saying I’m sitting on the couch writing on my laptop which is sitting in (or is it on?) my lap. I rather love the way Fry claims, in the introduction to his autobiography (which is as far as I’ve managed to get), that if something can be said in ten words he may be relied upon to use one hundred. He is, by dint of being fantastic, reclaiming the term “verbose” from the critics, who have too often used it for the purpose of condemnation.

The preceding paragraphs have served to bring you all to this one, wherein I get to the point insofar as this blog post has a point. I am a writer. That is my greatest blessing. That is my eternal curse. (Dramatic, wot?) And so I find myself, as I have so very often found myself over the past decade or so, writing when I should be relaxing, or socialising, or, for that matter, cleaning my apartment (one of the benefits of working in a shop that sells kitchen goods – just one of my many places of employment – is that I now own sufficient crockery that doing the dishes becomes a monthly, rather than a daily or even weekly, task).

I had no intention of writing today. I had already thought of a suitable excuse for ‘not getting round’ to this blog entry. Hello? Fry! And this blog entry isn’t even what I mean when I say I’m writing, though I am rather enjoying it! I’m working on a new novel. Some of you may have heard me get all excited about it. It’s set in Adelaide. It’s fantasy. It involves a young boy and his dog . . . and that’s all I’m saying for the moment! It’s something I’ve been working on (which in my world means ‘thinking about’, but more on that below) for quite some time. It’s all coming together now. The words are flowing, or some other suitably powerful and active verb. I might even be tempted to throw in an unnecessary adverb, just to illustrate my point. Yes, I think I shall. The words are flowing wonderfully. Hmmm . . . Wondrously? Fantastically? Well, you get the point.

I’m not the sort of writer who writes every day (the scarcity of blog updates has probably clued you in on that). I feel I should add a footnote somewhere here telling you not to tell anyone I said that. Isn’t that what writers tell you? Write every day! Well, I don’t. But I have developed the habit of thinking every day, or more accurately daydreaming. I do it all the time, and that isn’t just a figure of speech in this instance. Reading, teaching, watching television. No matter the activity I am engaged in, I can be relied upon to be thinking about something else. In fact, I’m doing it right now. These daydreams can, at times, turn into draft outlines and character bios. They develop a strange sort of focus about them. A structure is imposed upon them, the source of which I am only vaguely aware of. My subconscious, it seems, does not know the meaning of the words “time off”. Is that normal?

I’ve heard that Milton used to draft in his head overnight and then dictate his work in the morning. I’m not quite that disciplined, but I do tend to draft quite heavily in my head before I sit down to write. It’s a useful skill when you only get a few days off a month, and those seldom at your choosing. It also means that you find yourself writing when you should really be out “getting a life”.

Speaking of which, I seem to be quite blogged out. Also, my coffee cup is empty. I do hope you’ve enjoyed my ramblings. Tune in next time (yes, I was raised in large part by the television, but that is yet another story) when I’ll be blogging about writing groups and classes, and also about the importance of speaking easy.

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2 Responses to On Writing, Cats, “Days Off”, and Stephen Fry

  1. Tamsyn says:

    Hah! Nice blog post. I have a huge man crush on Stephen Fry – not a fan . Just re-watched V – for a bit of a Fry Fix. Loki sounds almost as scary as my Millie (that should teach me to name her after a witch – even a kindly one like Mildred). She’s such a bully – she’s been super nice to me lately though. I wonder what she wants *looks over shoulder timorously*.

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