Yesterday I went off to my writers’ group. We met in a cellar (converted into a bar and restaurant) with flagstone floors and a great black leather chaise longue on which the permanently tired poet could recline. Reading my own work aloud fills me with despair. I can’t say the feedback was helpful either, although S did say it read ‘as if it was already published’. I didn’t get the feeling that what I was writing was of huge interest to them. To myself it sounded slightly contrived and derivative. One or two good lines.
W was the most cheerful, and the worst writer there. He was wearing a green hat his uncle stole from Italo Calvino. (No, I don’t really believe that either.) He brought a page and a half of text he had written two years ago while sitting in a cafe called Nagasaki and thinking about an explosion. Oh tacky symbolism! He doesn’t know how to write and I doubt he has the aptitude for hard work. He likes to think of himself as a writer. The way I might like to imagine myself as a petite graceful ballerina able to stand on her tippy toes and pirouette in a rapid whirl.
S had written a good piece but very short and laboured, leaving characters behind in the plot, unresolved dilemmas, a central charcter who remains a cipher all the way to the end. He won’t rewrite, I know that in my bones. The effort of writing appalls him, he only writes if he absolutely has to do so.
Both W and S are aspects of myself as I present them here, but I do write. Every day, despite reluctance and aversion. Rewriting mostly, pieces I don’t care for any longer, but reworking and struggling to make them publishable. It is such backbreaking bloody work and there is always so little to show for the effort.
But it was a warm and funny time together despite the awkwardness at moments and we are to meet again in a fortnight. Came back and thought of all the gritty hours of effort that sobriety has given me. No point ever in revising drunken writing, it is rarely worth the trouble. Sentimental and rambling, disconnected, full of unrealistic wishes and maudlin nostalgia, clumsy and lazy prose written under the influence.
Now I am doing a belated apprenticeship and developing the skills I learnt in features writing, slowly trying to break into a more serious and considered writing. Creative non-fiction. Fiction, Book reviewing, travel pieces, food history. It is slow and I need to read more, study more, find out how to correct my own errors. Spot those errors, not let them slip through. But little by little I am getting somewhere. And the effort is worthwhile, the satisfaction deep.
Another day of promise, building on days just like it. These are the balmy days of recovery and I cherish each and every one of them.