Wow, nearly a week since my last post… there’s a combination of factors responsible for that, not the least being that I hit the most monumental wall yesterday, and really could not function in front of the computer. Eventually I gave up. I think I was all tuckered out after saying goodbye to the Darklings around midday yesterday, who hit Man Town last Friday for our latest writing retreat. Given my advanced condition, I was deemed too pregnant to travel anywhere, so they all very kindly submitted to coming here instead. And not only did they drop into Man Town, they checked into the block of holiday apartments directly across the road from my place – most convenient! The only difficulty in all this is now adjusting to their departure… I was getting rather used to having everyone here!
It was quite good timing from Llew’s point of view, too, given the raft of DIY jobs requiring his immediate attention, some of which involved paint fumes I preferred to avoid. He was hard at it all weekend, and now, thanks to his dedicated exertions, I can almost see the world in which my office – soon to be Baby J’s room – might even be ready in time.
I should confess that it’s been looking pretty bloody dicey. In particular, a gigantic hole in the wall did not bode well, nor did the exposed electrical wires the crumbling wall revealed. As delightfully, uncharacteristically mellow as I have been throughout this pregnancy (it seems that recent, unwelcome return to Distempered Selfhood was just a brief relapse), the state of the place had been getting to me. The thing is, nothing can be done in there until the wall repairs are finished, so it’s been making me anxious, increasingly so, but now the end is finally in sight. By the end of this coming weekend, the repainting will be finished, and we can start looking at some sort of assemblage and arrangement of key items for Baby J’s care. You know, like somewhere to sleep. That would be a positive start – and not a moment too soon.
Anyway, as always during these Darkling retreats, it was a very productive time. I just can’t emphasise enough the collateral benefits of working when other writers are near. There’s a definite psychological advantage – knowing everyone under the same roof is busy working on their own manuscripts is profoundly motivating. You feel a responsibility to make the most of the opportunity, and also to have something to relay of your labours when everyone comes together at day’s end. I worked over there instead of remaining here for precisely this reason – I wanted to access that extra Darkling dimension – it wouldn’t have been at all as energising staying home, not even knowing they were working mere steps away. No, I had to be there to be part of it, so after swims and breakfast with Llew each morning, I went across the road for the day, and dined with the Darklings each night (when much debriefing and brainstorming was done).
And I did good work – we all did. The only problem for me is that I now have to deal with what came out of it, and that’s a much larger, much more serious problem than merely acknowledging my manuscript’s issues (these are problems I’ve identified, by the way – we didn’t actually exchange or read any work this time round). I’ll elaborate as soon as I’m able; right now I am still digesting the implications. I need to navigate a clear path through these thoughts, through this new awareness about the fault-line of my writing. I am left knowing I have to plot a course that takes me from thought to deed, but that I have to tread especially carefully now. Part of what I’ve realised is that this time, I can’t just set off blind as I’ve done in the past. I have to prepare properly: I have to pack, I have to check my provisions are appropriate to the journey, and I have to plan the precise route I’m going to follow to my destination. Otherwise I’ll perish in the attempt – or more accurately, the manuscript will – and there will be no one to blame but myself.
Oh, and that final short story competition announcement I’ve been waiting for? It’s apparently coming on December 1, more than six months after submissions closed. I’m not holding my breath. In fact, I’m releasing it in a long, rude raspberry. A recent email to entrants said shortlisted writers would be notified – all is dead silent around here – and that they received nearly one thousand entries. For an Australian short story prize, that’s an extraordinary result. A field of 1,000 hopefuls! I know, I know, it’s not about the competition, it’s only about each writer doing the best she or he can do, but WOW, all I can imagine is my own small story being trampled underfoot. Oh well – it’s good to know we’re all out there trying – there’s a lot to be said for that!