Mike in Finland

Saturday, 4 February 2012

What are you working on now?

Like most writers, I imagine, that´s a question I often get asked. So I thought I´d give an update on work in progress here on my blog.

Firstly, I´m producing poems for my second collection... very slowly. I´ve tried to estimate the rate at which I produce poems that I want to keep, and possibly publish, and very approximately it works out at about 10 a year. However, I sometimes write three or four in as many weeks and then go months without writing one. It´s always been like that with me and I never let it bother me: the dreaded writer´s block. Right from when I started writing, I always had the attitude: I don´t have to do this. If the flow dries up, then I don´t write. I´m not sure how I´d feel if the dry period stretched to years rather than months, but I think my attitude probably wouldn´t change.

Now, though, there´s another element in the mix because the work that I´m producing now is also part of my doctorate in creative and critical writing. I need to have sufficient work to meet the requirements by the due date. The terminology makes it sound like accountancy rather than poetry. That was intentional, but I don´t like it much. When I did my MA I had enough ready poems to have submitted my final portfolio even if I hadn´t produced a single new poem. It took the pressure off and in the event I wrote a lot of new poems (at the usual rate, just about). I´m not in that position now, though. I´m trying not to think about it.

And then there´s the new novel, Arthur´s Eventful Weekend. It´s a rather quaint title, I think. One friend asked if it was a children´s book when I told him what it´s called and I can see that it has that kind of tone. It´s about a chap called Arthur, who is telling the story. Over the course of one weekend he goes over his whole life, remembering and taking stock of events and stages that he has passed through. Between those memories, the events of the weekend are unfolding. At the end we learn that something from his past has just resurfaced in his present life and this leads him into a momentous decision. One of the techniques I´ve used in the structure of the narrative is to take events, characters and themes from the Arthurian legends and transpose them into a modern setting and given them a realistic tone. That means they are radically altered from the magical world of the legends, but they are still recognisable.

I´ve just about completed the main part of the writing but I keep tinkering with it
and will probably continue to do so until it´s taken away from me!


  1. Great to see what you are working on. I was wondering, to be honest. And it's also encouraging to me to see that your approach to poetry writing and mine are exactly the same...much like the proverbial buses, you can wait a long time, and then three come together all at once.

  2. Hi Sue. Thanks for your comment and interest. I wonder just how general our approach to writing poetry is. I´ve heard that there are poets how sit and write virtually to a timetable. Of course, they either scrap work they´re not happy with or keep revising it until they are. I´ve tried to do that once or twice myself, but I´m just not happy with the method.

  3. "However, I sometimes write three or four in as many weeks and then go months without writing one. ... Right from when I started writing, I always had the attitude: I don´t have to do this. If the flow dries up, then I don´t write."

    I love this sentiment. People always say a writer has to be writing (like many modern Billy Crystals from Throw Momma From the Train). It's like that with artists too - there's a competition to see who has spent the most time in the studio struggling over their art. The fact remains you have to write about something (or make art about something as the case may be.) That about is what living is for. Kudos to you for not writing for months.

  4. Thanks DPL; I´m glad my feelings on the matter chimed.

    I should also have made it clearer that when I produce poems in a batch, they aren´t done and dusted in that period. Those are just first drafts. I´ll re-write and tinker with them until someone takes the things away from me.