Monday, March 17, 2014

Days 14-16

See, this is what happens to me. I'll have an idea, a plan to do this or that thing, and get all wrapped up with it in my head, then I'll have a load of bumbling false starts and eventually fizzle out. So, over the past 16 days what have I really done other than come up with a vague idea of how to act upon my too-vague ambitions?

Anyhoo, I'm frustrated. On Saturday (Day 14), Jenn tried to give me a chance to make up for Friday by going to her friend's house for the afternoon, leaving me free to write. But I didn't. Not really. Not productively. I goofed around, staring at the wall, and thereafter really only focused on writing stuff for my motorcycle blog. And, honestly, that's not the point of this whole thing. Yes, you can say, "Well, at least you're writing," but it's writing of the wrong kind. I don't know. I'm not happy with it.

Beyond that, the only thing close to a literary endeavour was watching The Rum Diary, the film of the book by Hunter S. Thompson about a young hack journalist who dreams of being a novelist. It was a film I had really wanted to see when it first came out a few years ago, but now I'm kind of glad I didn't go pay money for it. Hunter S. Thompson was something of a one-trick pony, and once you've read anything by him you've effectively read everything by him.

Thompson was an interesting man in terms of his literary ambitions, because he was surprisingly well-read. Or at least, had been as a young man and carried much of that into later life. For instance, I remember reading something in which he just waxes lyrical about Faulkner. I sense that Thompson always dreamed of producing great things like that and felt frustrated and trapped by his success as a dude who effectively addles himself for the sake of being able to write about it.

Maybe that's why he killed himself: he felt that the greatness within him that might have produced a timeless novel or two was too far lost to the legacy of this wild, psychotic character that had taken over his life. Professional wrestler syndrome: you forget that your name isn't really Hulk Hogan, it's Terry Bollea.

But back to the fact that Thompson had, at one time, been well-read. It occurred to me this morning that this is another area where I'm going wrong: I'm not reading nearly enough. Barbara Kingsolver says on the FAQ page of her website: "I learned to write by reading the kind of books I wished I'd written. I still do. I limit my exposure to the type of stuff I don't want to write... I'm enough of a biologist to know that whatever comes in will, in some form, come back out."

At present, very little is going in beyond articles about motorcycles or professional wrestling. So, perhaps it's no real surprise that the short story I've been trying to write is really not very good at all. I need to read more. I need to make that a key part of the process.

Sunday (Day 15), meanwhile, was a non day. Jenn and I went for a short ride around on my motorcycle then returned home to focus on a wealth of chores around the house. I washed both our bicycles and changed the oil in my motorbike.

I always love the sense of accomplishment one gets from doing car/motorcycle maintenance. It gives a you a great sense of usefulness. I suppose because the quality (that term used in the Robert Pirsig sense) of the work is less subjective.

I mean, I've written a 90,000-page book that I'm trying to get published. Is it any good? That's up to the opinion of the person reading it. And to that end, maybe all the effort I put into the book was for nought. If you change the oil of a motorcycle, though, the "quality" is less arguable. There are 3.6 litres of fresh oil in a machine and because of that, the machine will run properly and under less threat of internal breakdown. I did that. I made that happen. And the value of my effort is easier to measure.

That said, I could have done better. I purchased a too-small funnel to catch the old oil, and that resulted in my spilling a good 400 ml or so of oil onto the ground.

If you've never changed the oil of a car or motorbike before, the process is pretty simple. At the bottom of the oil pan (known as a "sump" in British lingo) there is a little bolt. You unscrew that, and all the old oil comes pouring out. Generally, you catch it with a special rectangular bottle, and you are then able to dispose of the oil safely, rather than just emptying it into the sewer as most shadetree mechanics used to do. So, I set the bottle underneath the bike, with a funnel to help guide the oil in without spill. But, as I say, the spout of the funnel was too narrow. So when the oil came gushing out it quickly filled up the funnel and spilled out over the sides and onto the ground. So, I ended up throwing water on the pavement and flushing the oil into the sewer. I'm sorry, Mother Earth.

Today, Day 16, the plan is to take my planet-killing dandy horse to the historic city of Bath, to attend the monthly Bath Storytelling Circle. I'm not really sure what to expect, but it's held in my favourite pub so I can at least arrive there safe in the knowledge that I will have a steak pie for dinner.

1 comment:

Mom said...

Please don't write a 90,000 page book. I will only be able to read the 300 page Readers' Digest edition of it.