Overslept for once, woke up and there was no time for meditation, no time for morning pages, no time for pottering around. I didn’t mind because I had awakened from that deep refreshing sleep I remember as a teenager, sprawled out as the clock ticked on, face creased into the pillows, sheets kicked loose, just lying there as if you could sleep for ever. And when I finally sat up and rubbed my eyes, it had been drizzling all night and the garden was soaked, no need to go out and deal with bone-dry ground or tussocks of weeds.
The relief of change, a break in routine. We all need that from time to time.
And going through my notes, I see I have 4 700 words written on a new fiction, either a short story nearly finished or a healthy chunk of novella, or the opening pages of a novel. I’m hoping for a short story because my heroine here is a young woman named Purefoy who keeps disappearing and coming back as someone else, scaring her family and friends. It feels like a horror story to me, although I don’t know that many horror writers would think it gory enough. I’m no good at gore and commercial genre typing can be a prison. The character Purefoy is also irksome in metamorphosis because she chews her fingernails raw and takes a single bite out of apples or hunks of cheese before throwing them away, so much waste. The project of writing fiction is an ongoing productive tension between conscious intention and the unconscious breaking in to subvert the plot.
In any case, I will finish this draft, rewrite it and in late February, after yet another reworking, send it away to my beta reader and let her splodge red pen all over the pages, tell me what doesn’t work for her as a reader. I do the same for her and we trust one another’s judgment. After that I will rewrite it again and send it back to her, do more corrections as suggested by her and rewrite once more, format it to specifications, send it off to an editor who likes my work. At that point it will either be rejected or shelved, or I shall sit down and rewrite it again following the editor’s critique, submit it for publication. There are no short-cuts when it comes to getting published, even if you have been through this process a dozen or three dozen times.
Not the easiest way to earn a living, but it is what I do.
Out on the local farms there are cases of multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis and the farms are to be quarantined by government health authorities. Many of those ill with TB are refugees and working illegally as farm labourers, so nobody is going to be happy about the quarantine. The housemate is collecting sterile masks and gloves, sealed boxes of medical equipment to deal with what may be a regional crisis. She is relieved that the outbreak isn’t the highly contagious Ebola virus.
Headlines in the local newspaper say that at a conservative estimate, 4.4-million people in South Africa have died of Aids, mostly children and the younger generation. By 2015, six million will be living with HIV/Aids. Such a tragedy.
But on we go, mustering good will and practical concern. And a neighbour has just arrived with several deep woven fruit baskets filled with ripe scarlet tomatoes that we ordered a month or so back. Fruit has ripened early in the heat. Cracked, split and scarred, but magnificent in taste and unsprayed. This weekend we shall make tomato purees, chutneys and pasta sauces, decanted into jars and bottled, lined up on the shelves high in the kitchen. A labour of love that saves us so much because I shall not have to buy canned tomatoes until early next summer.
Whenever I get stuck in a battle of wills with the nail-biting character Purefoy, I can take time out to deal with tomato preparations in the kitchen. There are five-litre and 10-litre pots standing on the kitchen table, rows of glass jars waiting to be washed and boiled, rubber rings, tight-fitting lids. On Saturday there there will be five of us working side by side, shouting and laughing and scalding our knuckles; in turn we will go over and help others bottle their tomatoes, pickling onions or peaches.
Neighborliness, beta readers, good will and practical concern — it may not solve everything but at least the troubles are shared.