Thursday, February 22, 2007


It's a great word, antsy - an American word, I believe, maybe coming from "ants in your pants" - one that exactly describes my condition. I fidget, I can't rest, can't relax, and right now I can't write anything. Everything I look at that I've started makes me squirm. I hate it. Did I write that? I'm crap. Yes, I've written good stuff in the past, but maybe that was it? I'm not depressed, I'm just... well, antsy. So I thought I would get the fingers moving here instead.

I am in a Chocolate Bar. No, not actually inside one, but sitting in the Max Brenner cafe at the Tel Aviv port whose theme is Chocolate. I decided after sitting in another cafe without any reduction in antsi-ness that chocolate was the thing. So I came here, had a waffle with banana, caramel, dark chocolate icecream and hot chocolate sauce. There are no words to describe it. Try one.

I feel much much better. Still antsy, though.

Let's talk about writing. I realised during the two weeks of flu-related malaise when I couldn't write that I had become rather obsessed with submitting. Submitting and getting accepted. The rejections were really hitting me hard because I wasn't writing. I was just submitting, and so everything stood and fell on those submissions. But submitting doth not a writer make. Writing is what counts, even if no-one sees it. So, assisted by J, I came up with a plan: submit stuff to several months' worth of competitions and deadlines all in one go, rather than on a daily basis. Then put them out of my mind.

That was the theory.

In practice I sent a load of subs in over the last few days (which is a very expensive business when competitions are concerned) but am still checking to see if competition results have been posted etc...Which is stupid because generally, if you win or get close, they email you. You don't generally find out about it on the website.

So, I need to calm down. I need to write.

In the meantime, I am reading. What I am reading right now is Under the Dam, a collection of stories by David Constantine which is absolutely fabulous. He is a poet, novelist, translator, short story writer... ah, one of those multi-talented people! But you can immediately hear from his stories that he is a poet and I feel that I have learned a lot from reading. His stories often seem to be written in a slightly old-fashioned language, with words sometimes set down in the "wrong" order so that you have to re-read a sentence just to check what it means. His language flows, he uses repetition to wondrous effect, and he creates gorgeous images. He plunges straight into the stories without a preamble. A few first lines:

Nobody noticed. Apparently they never do.


"That horse makes me nervous," Judith said.


When Mrs Mercer came in she found her husband looking poorly.

Those are from some of the stories I have read so far. Each story is located in a different place, different city, country - we move from Manhattan to Singapore, Scotland, Paris, a glacier in Italy. But I didn't wonder whether Constantine had been to these places, knew them well, as a certain Guardian journalist seemed overly concerned with last week (see Kay Sexton's blog rant on his comments). I was swept up in the stories.

Reading good stories makes me want to write. To write good stories. Not in imitation - although it is always tempting to try and analyse what works for one writer and then have a bash at it yourself. But eventually I always come back to the way I do things. Coz, frankly, I am not good at not being my kind of writer. I hope the antsi-ness will leave me soon and I can get down to something. I thought it would be the other way round but that's not working right now.

Ah, maybe a little more chocolate??


Vanessa G said...

I think it's easy to feel antsy. I do, lots.

But I suppose I think 'what's better, having work out there and waiting for a response, or having nothing out there at all, working alone with little affirmation'?

Thats why its a different beast, writing this 'novel'... which comes out of my fingers so slowly!

I think I will always fiddle wih shorter things as well, as a contrast, but also so I do have 'things out there'.

besides which, as anyone who's been in that place called 'writing boot camp' knows, you get taught how to sub there, and it becomes part of what you do.

and you do learn this antsy feeling if you aren't following the rules! I get it still.

maybe chololate waffles is the answer!!!


TitaniaWrites said...

V - thanks for your comment, that's true that Boot Camp instils us with the always-submitting philosophy, I'd forgotten about that.

Frankly, I think waffles are the answer, to everything. I should have more!

Sara said...

I have the anti submitting philosophy! Gah, it is so hard for me to actually submit anything anywhere and I don't know why. The hope when a piece is "out" is lovely but the sadness when it is unloved is horrid. I hope the antsy-ness soon subsides. It may even be a hangover from your virus. Your desire to write great stories is what counts I think, you will write again soon. Best wishes.

TitaniaWrites said...

I know what you mean, there's such a build up of hope which can be pricked in one moment. It's hard to keep rebounding from that. But actually, as a wise friend said, sending the rejected piece straight out again can attempt to turn the karma around. I'm feeling more optimstic now, still a little antsy, which could definitely still be virus fallout. At least I know I can moan on my blog whenever I need to - and you'll all understand!
Just popping out for some chocolate now, despite the pouring rain.