Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Evolving projects

It's a strange thing how one idea can lead to another and another... like stepping stones across a changing landscape. I'm enjoying 'finishing' the Twins Book, although finishing is putting a rather glossier gleam on it than what it really is - completing the first draft. There are people who write perfect first drafts, I don't, I'm over it. The book already has the seeds of exciting new directions in it, like forking over the compost heap and finding a peach stone growing. Or an avocado, which would be unusual since I don't like avocados and never throw stones away. But, anyway, new ideas spring up, especially about The Project, which is gathering pace.

The writing is slowly evolving, from what I thought could be a novel about a therapist exploring the rants of an angry, possibly mentally ill woman, to considering autobiography/biography. I realised my fictional character was grieving for a significant loss trying to make sense of her own feelings and those of her loved one. She was even the same age as me when my sister died, for goodness sake, and the character name was one letter away from Sarah. I accept that I am as bonkers as Lorina and rapidly unravelling as I stitch but there's something very therapeutic in that. Of course, the big debate is whether a reader might find a fictional character more interesting (and more believable) that a real life, even told in fragments. Not to mention most people find it hard to weigh and edit writing about themselves in the same way they sort out fiction. Anyway, the stitching is a bit addictive so I'll see where it leads me.

The bird decided to join us, I don't know why, the original figures were appliquéd, and a fox is going to join it soon. It's a bit disturbing when a project takes over but that's what books do, too. It's all go here, one daughter has moved into her first house, another has got into college - all in the same few weeks. I'm looking forward to seeing my brother and his wife next weekend, and I'm teaching character, which is disturbing in itself. 

'Let's make up some people who can do crazy things in our heads...' 

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

The Project

Despite the rest of my world still needing attention, I've managed to make a start on The Project. This is me attempting to write a novel about a not-famous person but a fascinating record of her inner thoughts, stitched into an amazing rant from the injustice (as she saw it) of being dumped in a workhouse as a lunatic.

I've started by sewing together some strips of cloth and having a go at embroidering words on them. One thing has become obvious - it's hard to hold focus on a rant when you're going at one letter every two minutes. I'm already choosing words with less of those pesky curves in (O takes seven stitches) and more angular words with A and W. She wrote entirely in capitals which is interesting too, it feels like she's shouting it, screaming it even. I find myself getting wound up inside pretty quickly, just because the letters are so big and - shouty. 

This is a bit of the big piece. 
She didn't punctuate at all. This makes it really hard to read but when you sew, it creates lots of short phrases, odd combinations that you don't expect, as you stitch it very s l o w l y

So I'm writing very slowly, without many little words like 'and' and 'the' so it's already open to interpretation, and finding odd connections. I find myself using a lot of verbs. Yesterday I wrote (in slow motion) WATER SKI ON ROUGH SEAS SHOCK ICE SALT IN MY FACE DOWN MY THROAT BURNING CHOKING. It's a fascinating project, and as I sit over my stitching I find myself brooding and wondering how to get ideas down in as few words as possible. REB CROSS GET CHOCOLATE seems to be the end point.  

Lorina Bulwer found a lot of rhymes too, they're a bit addictive, along with words that morph into new words. STITCHING BITCHING IN THREAD NEEDLE SLIPS SILK CUTS COLOURS BLEED WITCHING STITCHING INTO CLOTH WINDING IN WORDS WORMS WORLDS (my words not hers). 

This was my first sampler.

I'm starting to feel the need for illustrations too, just like she did, although I haven't managed to work out what her pictures were for. I wonder where it's all going, but it does seem to be going somewhere. I feel like the needle thing is so moreish it pulls me into the fabric. Maybe I'll be found dessicated, neatly stitched into a quilt. 

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Head buzzing with ideas

I don't sleep amazingly well, and I don't seem to need that much anyway. But recently I've been up, tired and grumpy but wide awake at 5.30. Since I can't get to sleep before 12.30 at the earliest, sleep is in short supply. The reason is two-fold. I've been given a baby dose of thyroxine to counter a slight shortfall, and like all hormones, it has a strong effect. At least I'm not feeling cold all the time. But the main reason is that my brain is buzzing with ideas.

As a writer who is a bit compulsive about writing (yes, I'm back writing everyday like a word junkie) I want to write the twins book. I'm working on a local writers' anthology, which is coming on well but I always forget just how much work these are. And I'm contemplating The Project, complete with possibilities of PhD etc. I don't know what I should do, but my time seems split between different projects and all I want to do is write.

I've been reading books on 'hermaphrodites' and intersex (or disorders of sex development) through the ages. While the historical picture is predictably blunt and shaped by patriarchal societal norms (some boys with very small penises were 'adjusted' to look more like girls), terrifyingly, the picture in the 1980s and 1990s wasn't much better. Babies with 'ambiguous' genitalia and/or chromosomes were operated on so they would look normal at school. I'm glad to say my genitals were not, at any time at school, shared with the class. And if they were, if a wide range of 'normal' genitals were accepted and the person's own feelings on their gender (or not) were considered, how many children would have avoided being mutilated? The picture has improved: as long as a baby can pee and poo, time is now allowed to explore physical development, the hormonal picture and how the child self-identifies. Fascinating stuff but more work needs to be done to allow people who do not choose a polarised view of their gender, whether intersex or not, to be themselves. All grist to writer's mill, though.

Otherwise, we're worried sick about an older relative. It cuts at our family, even our sixteen year old (who has just got into college without a GCSE to her name, go Rosie) and is probably one reason I wake at 5.30 and lie awake thinking about being old. “Old age ain't no place for sissies.” ― Bette Davis