Paint By Numbers
Sadly, you can probably see from my work that I don’t know where I’m going. I have had experiences and experiments, where I have, as you say, sort of mapped it out, but the kind of result in the work seems to look like kind of an attempt to paint by numbers. Those books you used to get as a kid, you just — all the fields would be numbered in — two was red and black was one, and the kind of — you do get something that’s coherent at the end, but it’s usually lifeless, it’s kind of static and a little prefabricated.1 So, I guess why — over the 30 something years I’ve been doing this gig, I guess I’ve just given into the fact that I show up every morning in the hope that something else shows up, and I kind of follow the story best I can. And I tend to kind of — like a really, really lazy teacher, all I need to really do is stay two lessons ahead of the kids.
And I’ve sort of given up over planning and being too anxious about what lies ahead. I did learn a little bit from Hemingway about leaving a little bit in the well for tomorrow. So, that’s just a pragmatic thing of — so you don’t have to start dry every day. You put the pen down a few paragraphs before you need to, so that you don’t have to prime the pump in the morning. At least you can start from that. And all the time, the actual physical and mental work of putting stuff down the page is — it’s a matter of waiting, really, it’s a — another half arsed analogy is this kind of surfing idea that with people who are surfers — people drive by and see them out in the water, thinking to themselves and say, you’re not even doing anything.2 You’re just sitting in the water looking out to sea. And I guess that’s true. As a surfer, you’re riding the energy from a storm across the horizon, all the particulars of which you don’t really understand and aren’t always that interested in. But when that energy radiates across the sea in the form of a wave, you’re thrilled to see it come.
If you’ve been sitting there long enough, you feel like you deserve it, and you turn around and ride that energy to the shore, and it’s a little bit like the experience of writing a novel or a story, it’s being patient enough to hold your nerve, to wait when nothing seems to be there.3 If you don’t paddle out, you definitely won’t get a wave, just show up at the desk every morning and try to hold your nerve and be patient and wait. Bring on the best you can, but you limber up, but yeah, if you don’t show up — if something else shows up, it goes by without you.