iv

Tonight is the first big test – can I keep this up, every day, regardless of how I feel or where I am. Sure, yesterday I went to London and only had my phone with me, but the bus journey on the way back gave me no excuse not to use my phone to keep up the posts. Tonight is harder.

I’m exhausted, played football after work for the first time in a few weeks, and when I play I just throw myself in to it. Plus of course there’s the hangover (though playing footie with a hangover in the glorious dying light of a winter’s day is pretty fantastic). Then there’s our upstairs neighbours whose regular nightly ritual of door-slamming and bang-bang cooking has been expanded tonight to include an erratic almighty crashing followed up by their most bizarre habit – calling to one another like gibbons.

Being on my own here is bad enough, since I seem to have a shorter fuse than when my fiancée is here. Shorter by a few dozen feet. So attempting to sit and find the energy to write, and think about writing, is a challenge I’m just about managing to overcome. Though if our neighbours start playing their hurdy-gurdy accordion or using what we’re sure is a lathe then I might have to stop typing, fire up Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and turn the volume to “holocaustic”.

Sadly this is, just four days in, the first post I’ve been editing as I’ve gone along. Not much, the odd sentence here, a thread that died there, but it’s a habit I could do with losing. The struggle I’m finding with the poem is that I want to both a) Get something down as a verse every week, while b) Not perfecting it too much so I can keep going on to the next verse.

This is problematic when writing a poem, since often if you set off in one direction in a line the next line is fundamentally affected if you then change direction or rewrite completely. That said, drafting a novel isn’t simply a matter of tightening paragraphs, getting rid of DanBrownian motion (the famous man picked up the red pencil and walked along the gothic corridor [Thanks to Stuart Lee there]) and swapping nouns.

I don’t know if drafting worries me, or if it’s the fact that I need to have successfully transferred the idea from the creative part of my brain through the writing part and down onto the pages. I’m coming to understand that this is a ridiculous thing to expect from myself. It’s like a dream that sticks in the mind – just try telling it to someone and quickly it will dissipate like salt in hot water. (Procrastination alert – reaching for the spellcheck)

What do I want from the poem? I want to replicate that mythical yet personal atmosphere you get from all brilliant epics – from Spartacus to Gladiator, Laurence of Arabia to 300. *Where’s this going?* I have this idea that I can write something that feels ancient. Excitingly I’ve already begun thinking about the deeper history to the whole setup itself. It’s the first time I’ve ever had such a solid alternate-world which felt my own.

Okay, it’s influenced pretty heavily by films like those. But where it works I feel is that while other ideas I’ve had have been influenced by other ideas, this feels like it’s capturing a spirit of a period of real history, rather than the formula of another story. It’s Greek, Persian, Roman, Celtic… There’s enough of this world in it to make it my own world.

At the heart of it really is my fascination with men, specifically men’s roles, choices, instinct, feelings. Set in an era so entirely alien to our own cultural lives, and yet at once so familiar that we could travel back to it and live quite easily (if not comfortably) within the society. So much has changed, so many, many years have passed and yet at the same time everything at a certain, personal level is almost unchanged.

Well, that’s about 30 mins, it’s certainly over 650 words (which must be enough!) and I’ve two MSN conversations going on now. Time to go!

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About Ben Catley-Richardson

Writer, reader, husband. Father!
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