Monday, 30 July 2012



My first undergraduate essay was on Alice in Wonderland through a filter of Freud's interpretation of dreams. Not a particularly original piece, but enthusiastic.

And still now I love sleep. When allowed by circumstance, I'll make ten hours a night, every night. Sometimes I think how much more productive I'd be if I could shave off a few hours, a la Maggie T. Sitting on the 0635 train to London last week I was with people on the phone, computers, reading papers, talking, only a few actually sleeping. These hours of life usually lost to my conscious self. But then would I produce anything worth producing with the extra three hours? Something worth more than a dream? Does my creative energy, my imeptus, come from that time spent in the unconscious?

I may not remember all my dreams, but like all those lost (to memory) experiences, I still hold them somewhere in my body to be accessed when I'm not necessarily searching them. Muscle memory. Reflexes. A submerged landscape that forms a context for my writing.

Then there are the dreams I do remember, that filter my waking, or those that startle me at some point during the day. My mother calls this 'breaking a dream'. To me it feels the other way round: a dream breaking my daytime life, with the strength of deja-vu, of past life, a childhood memory. All of them wrapped up into a fragmented image punching the force of whatever emotion gave rise to them in the first place. That then hangs over me like the aftereffect of a sneeze. What's the supposedly velocity of those?

The breaking dream may not be as violent, but as pervasive, my mind rolling around it, grasping at the pieces of visual and tactile imagery, to reenter that disconnected space, recall those experiences I've either stashed away or never previously had. Some stay with me for years after, as though they were 'true' experiences. Do they have the same influence on me?

I heard Jacob Sam-La Rose read a great poem on elements of dreams, in which he asked us, the audience, to acknowledge when we'd dreamt something similar: a litany of school corridors, sex, losing glasses, darkness, family... these are my regulars. Everyone was clicking away in recognition. Our secret sharing made public. A testament to the poem.

It's not only those dreams of our most beloved that interest us. It's an odd declaration that sleep is part of my creative practice when I can only remember a fraction (a small fraction at that) of it. And, logically, one I am not fully convinced by. But the first setting down of words on a page isn't logic. My intuition is covinced it's essential.

My bed is my desk.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Fireworks: literal and metaphorical

Just back from French House Party in the Languedoc, where seven willing participants ignited their imaginations over four days of intensive writing.

The above pic is not of their brains but the Bastille Day fireworks over Carcassonne. This was one of the most moving displays I've witnessed: beautifully paced and constructed over half an hour and set above the walls of Carcassonne which was so thoroughly brought to its knees by Christian crusaders in the 13th century.

That's the paradox of fireworks: beauty commemorating a brutal event. And I couldn't watch these, or feel the reverbations of the booming (and their echoes) on Saturday night without thinking of what terror Damascus must be under right now. Apparently Dubrovnik still does not allow firework displays.


Inevitably we discussed this the day after the trip (we'd all been taken to the city by Moira as part of the course) and perhaps some used it as trigger for their writing. One of my rules (I only have two in any workshop) is that no one is expected to read out everything they've just written in a session. We have a short 'airing' at the end of each three hours where everyone (including me) selects one piece - however long or short - to share with the group, to release it to the world, as it were, and see how it sounds on their tongue. While I often will stumble upon some great ideas in workshops, I personally hate most of what I write under those kind of conditions and don't see why I should expect others to present work freshly written for consideration or analysis by others.

We introduced a feedback session this year, so those who had something they wanted others to comment on could bring copies for a more thorough group discussion. And despite coming directly after the wine tasting, this was a great addition to the week. Or maybe, because...   

In case you're wondering my only other rule is only one person speaks at a time. Anything else goes. And it always does

Monday, 9 July 2012

Beaufort? What Beaufort?

The arrival of this on YouTube this week (from Richard Davis) feels especially pertinent since it was the wind that slashed my sailing trip in half. "Unseasonal gales" cooked up over and over in the Atlantic hit the UK in June. Fortunately the boat (and all crew) were unharmed, if stuck in the delights of Stranraer...