Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Truckzilla, or why I need to stop behaving like my cat

Josh is a good driver. But even for him, reversing into the carport for our block of flats is still at least, I don't know, a 28 point turn. I'm not allowed to to reverse into the carport for our block of flats at all, because I'm still kind of rubbish at driving and would probably kill cars and houses and small children if I tried. Or if I tried to reverse generally, for that matter.

I have no idea how on earth Truckzilla manages to fit.

Truckzilla turns up mysteriously on Mondays. Truckzilla is not so much a truck as a small god.

Truckzilla announced itself this morning while I was still in bed by filling the whole flat with a rumbling so ferocious you could virtually see walls shaking. Nothing fell over, but that was probably only because everything that could be knocked over by the force of Truckzilla was knocked over last time Truckzilla visited.

I glanced at the end of the bed. My cat Horatio was curled up sleeping. This was not surprising. Horatio could nap through the apocalypse. I couldn't see Cali at all. Cali is small and calico. She is sometimes slightly neurotic.

The first time Truckzilla visited, I was writing at the table in the living room. Cali flew in through the kitchen window, shot across the living room floor, and threw herself at the door out onto the deck. The door was shut. She landed against the glass with a thump. She threw herself against the windows next to it, which were shut too. All of this happened at the speed of cat, which is slower than the speed of light but faster than the speed of human. I sat with my notebook, gaping at her. And Truckzilla kept roaring outside, probably loud enough to show up on the Richtor scale. Cali didn't hesitate. She dug her claws into a curtain and climbed so fast that by the time I realised what she was doing, she was at the top, looking at me, her eyes the size of planets.

Neither of us had any idea what to do.

I took a step across to get Cali down, but she was faster than that. She flung herself off the curtain and bolted into our bedroom. I followed her. The venetian blind across the bedroom window was down. Cali plunged straight through the middle of it and sat on the windowsill, with that statue stillness that cats only have when they're terrified.

'Cali?' I said.

She gave me a long look of pure misery, and curled herself up behind the blind.

So when I heard Truckzilla this morning and wasn't sure where Cali was, I was worried. I heard a small thump in the next room and dragged myself out of bed and into the lounge.

Cali was on top of the washing rack. From reading that, you probably think it's one of those huge-ultra-strong-stand-up-in-a-tornado type washing racks. It's not. It's one of those small fiddly ones which collapses if you walk into the wrong part of the room and breathe. It's kind of a miracle it hadn't collapsed as soon as Truckzilla turned up. Cali gave me her terrified look again, her claws curled between my bras and Josh's work shirts, the entire rack swaying underneath her, ready to fall at any moment.

I took a step towards her and she pelted into the bedroom. She stared at me through the middle of the venetian blind. I went to grab her, but her eyes were so pitiful I changed my mind. I let her keep the space between the blind and the world. It was the last hiding place she had left.

I have no idea why Cali is so scared of Truckzilla. But I know that she's scared enough that she'll do anything in the world to get away from it. Even strange curtain climbing things that don't make sense.

I stood there, looking at her. And suddenly I was reminded of me. Of how when my writing isn't going as well as I want it to, it turns into Truckzilla. It is rumbling and unavoidable, and I do everything in the world to get away from it. I rearrange small objects; I play inane pirate games on the internet; I turn on the tv and watch music videos for songs I don't even like; I cook complicated meals with lots of spices. If I could climb a curtain to escape, I probably would. I run around inside my head like a scared cat in a small flat, flinging myself against windows, defying gravity.

And what am I so scared of? What is Truckzilla, really? The prospect of a writing day that could go horribly, brain bendingly badly? What's a day like that actually going to do? Run me over?

I don't think it's actually the thing itself. It's what the thing could be. A day of writing could be wondrous, or it could be awful. I've survived both. And they're more ambiguous than you'd think. Sometimes I reread a day of intense euphoric writing and it turns out to be a heap of incoherant descriptions and tangled dialogue; sometimes I reread a day of pure drudgery, one of those days where I would rather climb a washing rack and hang precariously, and the writing turns out fine.

Truckzilla is the prospect that things might be difficult. And that it would be better to avoid the scary difficult stuff and do a thousand other things instead, things that don't achieve anything much. Things I can't fail at. Things less likely to turn out imperfect and agonising.

I stared at the shape of my petrified cat, and thought that really, both of us were kind of ridiculous. A godlike truck was not the end of the world.

I found my notebook and my pen and crawled back into bed, and made myself start brainstorming the novel that's been giving me headaches for months on end. Truckzilla thundered through the walls. I ignored it. I wrote and wrote and wrote, and suddenly the story opened outwards and made sense like it hadn't for a long, long time. It burnt so strong it was weird to think I'd ever been wary of it.

I kept writing, and Monday flew by like a dream.

Friday, August 06, 2010

This is not a blog post. This is just something like a blog post.

My brain has this weird thing that it does when I write first drafts. Ok. I'm lying. My brain has at least ten weird things that it does when I write first drafts. But one of them is especially weird.

So. Imagine you're watching a romance. And let's face it, we've all watched at least one. Even those of us who proclaim ourselves to be profoundly unromantic. Even those of us who claim to be manly men who don't watch romance. Even you. Yeah, you. I can see you trying to hide that Pride and Prejudice dvd, the BBC one.

And anyway, you're watching your romance, and there's this whole plot where there are two people who are in love, but they don't notice that they're in love. They think that they're in hate. Or they don't even notice that. They are absentminded in their adoration, even when it's written all over them. And it's annoying, but annoying in a good way. Us story loving folks, we actually quite like being annoyed, if the annoyance is gentle, if we know it will be resolved or concluded, if we know it's leading to something good. The annoyance of two people who should be together but aren't quite there yet. You know, it's like the smell of a perfect chocolate cake baking, so good that you just want to eat it right now, cooking be damned, but you don't, because you know you have to wait so that it can be the best thing possible. Romance is exactly the same.

See, my brain does this. But with words. Actually, not words. With a word. One particular word. My brain doesn't notice, but it likes to fall in love with one particular word. Deeply in love. So in love that it wants to use it at least once every paragraph. Sometimes every sentence. Sometimes twice every sentence. The word changes from one thing to another to another over the days and weeks and months that go into writing a first draft for me, but the love remains the same. The unnoticed, unrequited love. Except unlike Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy, it's not really a love that can go anywhere.

Oh, my poor brain! Even if it was possible to marry a word, it's not like I'd want to marry the word smile. Or breathe. Or darkness. Or something. Especially something. I'm actually writing this blog post because I'm in the middle of transcribing a scene from my notebook and the scene is full of something. Something has crawled into every paragraph. I'll be typing away, and then another something will come in, where there should be an object or a description. And I'm so flooded by the something virus that I'm procrastinating by writing a blog post about it rather than actually dealing with it. It's that bad.

But, you know, this is a first draft. And that's what first drafts are for. Sometimes the 2836th way my brain chooses to use a word is the perfect way. It sits in its sentence exactly right. I just have to cull the first 2835 times to get to it. And sometimes, if you're doing it consciously, repetition can be glorious. But it can't be an unrequited love that slipped under the radar. It needs thought. A marriage needs to take place. A metaphorical marriage, but a marriage all the same. And you want it to be a happy one.

So yeah. It's probably not a problem for you, but you might want to watch out for it. You know, just in case it creeps up on you. It's something very sneaky.