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Some idle theorising…

Writing, the way I’ve lived it, is like breathing. Poetry or the lyrics I fumbled with that were my first self-aware writings, were like a held breath, a single breath held in as I tried to grasp a moment or a feeling and keep it intact.

Short stories are single full breaths, in and out. Especially ghost stories, which I was drawn to and used to talk about as I became more aware but less sure of my need to write, my ambition to write. The breath in, the set up, leading to a moment of suspension, of tension and fear before the held breath is released in relief.

I always looked at novels in these early stages and struggled to comprehend how I could have an idea which might suit longer form writing. All mine, at that time, centred on the held breath moment, the central point around which everything else moved.

Writing novels, writing long stories, is a series of breaths – shallower, deeper, quicker or slower, held or panted, each breath building towards the final breath, the final expression, and perhaps suggesting other breaths, untold and unrecorded, ahead.

But having started my first real writing project, and being paralysed in writing the long-form poem I’ve been thinking about for so long, I’m beginning to think that just as breathing rises and falls, passes in and out, that my writing will move like this.

In my first run at editing I’ve already started this – removing, paring down, exorcising redundant breathing, needless intakes and expressions without energy. I’m reducing the number of breaths. Might I come to a more mature poetry when I’ve learned to compress all those many thousands of breaths into one held and heady inhalation?

Grand theorising is a pasttime of mine. For a while I’ve picked apart one idea I’ve had about the methods we hold (specifically men) in the fibre of who we are, the ways we have been built to express ourselves. Sport, poetry, ideas, talking, caring, finding, hiding.

Alongside this I’ve tried to pin down the polarising impulse which motivates people either to remain in family units, in friendship networks, in established communities of any degree, or to leave the gravitational field of these groups and set a personal orbit, find your own destination and eventually found your own groups, networks or families.

I assumed that since the two points at the heart of my original theory felt so natural and so complementary, that this force would also be one of two sides. The finders and the … the seekers and the … the explorers and the …

But I’ve never managed to find the opposing position that fits in the same way as my main structure. I can’t pin down two sides, only the one, and while in the original structure the two sides feel genuine and true in this case a singular force seems only appropriate.

And not just appropriate, but required. Instead of a compass of points I have two fundamental methods (loosely summarised as looking inwards and looking outwards) and a motivating force which exists between them, or all around them, or through them.

It isn’t that you are one method or the other, it is that the force which motivates or energises you is most purely expressed through one method or the other, and that to express it through the other you must first be aware and must own the expression through your natural preference of method.

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About Ben Catley-Richardson

Writer, reader, husband. Father!
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