The Journey to Ithaca
When you set out on your journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the angry Poseidon — do not fear them:
You will never find such as these on your path,
if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine
emotion touches your spirit and your body.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the fierce Poseidon you will never encounter,
if you do not carry them within your soul,
if your soul does not set them up before you.
Pray that the road is long.
That the summer mornings are many, when,
with such pleasure, with such joy
you will enter ports seen for the first time;
stop at Phoenician markets,
and purchase fine merchandise,
mother-of-pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensual perfumes of all kinds,
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
visit many Egyptian cities,
to learn and learn from scholars.
Always keep Ithaca in your mind.
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for many years;
and to anchor at the island when you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.
Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
Without her you would have never set out on the road.
She has nothing more to give you.
And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you.
Wise as you have become, with so much experience,
you must already have understood what Ithacas mean.
My poem (http://bentlily.com/instapoems/
It was the day we laughed so hard
we made the lavender bloom
I was five
it was crisp and clear
we were running like horses
a game of make-believe
happiness all balled up in our hands
shooting out of us in shrieks and bellows
I'm a cat
and I decided I was too
a fire-starter cat
with nothing to do
but chase the wind
they say it whips you in the face
but this isn’t how it works
if you run hard enough
the wind bores right into you
I don’t remember anything else
except the smell of the sun
sweet as meringues
the wind carried the rest away.
Some are a bit meh, but the majority are actually pretty useful pointers for being effective or making changes or getting stuff done, and occasionally there's one that really hits the nail on the head at the right time - as with yesterday's, which is below:
We all know that it's impossible to be perfect.
And I'm like "Ahhhhhhhh - that's how you work out when to do which one!" This is a common bog that I catch myself in, and his distinction above makes really good sense. I'm thinking of it as applying to both riding and writing, but it has usefulness beyond that too... Interesting! :)
I have spent most of my life wanting to write and yet blocking myself in some capacity - and this is despite having spent 5 (lo-o-ong) years doing a PhD. However (and please disregard any or all of the below if it is not helpful for you) the thing that has (recently) helped for the first time has in fact been my horse-riding.
( Cut for LENGTH...! Lol! And Writerly Navel-Gazing! )
So, for me, taking this approach has led me to a whole new place in my writing, where I am actually enjoying being at the computer, which is the first time I have EVER felt that. It's still a work in progress, still a process of noticing what works and what doesn't and negotiating the inner voices, but I have faith in myself now, and I'm having fun!
Post from 13th Jan 2009
Right - I've been reading back through my copy of Mary Wanless's 'For the Good of the Rider', in order to respond to a post by here - I'm going to come back to that, I think, because there was some other stuff that I wanted to round up here first. Frustratingly, the internet access at the flat is painfully patchy - for no apparent reason, the connection will drop from the router and this means that accessing livejournal at home is a bit hit and miss... At this rate, I'll be hitting up the local Starbucks for my internets...!
So, I got some riding time on Sunday! Very happy. And even happier because I went out solo. Still only the second time that I have done that - but M was brilliant. Just walking because the footing wasn't that great - one of the other horses down the yard had slipped and fallen while out hacking earlier in the day (mainly because he was being a prat, and throwing himself about), but thankfully was ok, just a little cut on his leg. But it was just really nice to be out, and I was experimenting with my seat - just trying to be really conscious of my seatbones and what I was doing with my core and legs. M seemed happy - he prefers going really fast, with all his hair flying, but was good-natured about the whole thing. I've got another riding lesson on Sat (postponed from last week), so that will be interesting too.
The other thing I wanted to do was round up how the first week of my new writing target had gone - so that I have it to refer back to later. The target was to write 2,500 words in the week - which was broken down as 3 days of 500 words and 4 days of 250 words. I just failed to meet the target due to a wipe-out trying to write on Saturday. I got 100 odd words, but the whole thing had gone sticky and I just couldn't bear the discomfort. The error was in waiting to start until late afternoon, after a lot of busy-ness earlier in the day - by the time I got to the writing, I was just too tired, and the brain would not co-operate. However, I met or exceeded my target all the other days, which I am really pleased with. So I'm going to call that 2,400 - although, thinking about it, I'm certain that I exceeded the 2,500 target overall.
The other thing to note was that the last 1,000 words of the week (which were the first 1,000 words of a new chapter) were 1,000 words up a completely wrong alley, and I only realised this by the second writing session on Sun evening. I wrote my quota for that session anyway, and then spent a bit of time trying to work out where I had gone wrong - which I managed to pin down before going to bed. Monday morning's session then involved starting the chapter again with the new content/direction and it seems to be motoring along happily enough for the moment.
This has of course derailed my timetable, but I'm not allowing myself to feel too stressed about that. This is going to happen - either with days where I can't get the words done, sections where I write myself into a dead-end and have to back-track, and other sundry issues. If I can maintain the schedule by and large, then I will be very pleased with myself! I've also made myself a word-o-meter (paper version - so not v 20th C) but I've found that helpful in the past to help maintain momentum. Right, the internet has vanished into the ether, so I'm going to save this to post later, and do the riding post at a later date...
I'm gradually getting faster at mucking out and setting up for the night/next day - mucking out shavings bed, supper/breakfast prepped, hay net, water, and changing rugs on M. I finished up in 45 mins last night, and that included about quarter of an hour giving him scritches and gently brushing out his mane, which he seemed to like!
I'm also very pleased that the ongoing plan to train him to come to the gate when I call him seems to be working - previously I have had to walk across the entire length of the field, because he's quite happy to stay out there, and doesn't see any point in coming in! He's fine to catch, he just didn't seem to think it was worth the effort! So now I've started calling him from the gate, backed up with rattling his dinner in the bucket - and that absolutely does the trick! Yay me, and yay him!
I'm also pleased because this was the first week of my new schedule, and I managed to write 1500 words - which was the target!! I've got 750 to get at the weekend, which will be a little busy - apart from anything else I have to scrub mould off the wall next to my bed, which is not a job that I enjoy! - but I reckon I can get that. I need some kind of chart to track words achieved...
I'm only a few words off hitting my 500 target for today, but the well seems to have run dry, and everything has stalled, so I'm blogging instead!
A busy weekend, but almost no riding... which was a bit sad, but not much to be done about the weather.
Saturday, the ground was very icy in the morning and there is a fairly long section of road to cover before you get to the common, which slopes both up and down and winds quite sharply. The general consensus was that nobody fancied the footing on that. Which meant that I was all done and away in time to make a quick dash around Sainsburys and be home to eat lunch. At that point, all my momentum deserted me and I watched most of The Colour of Magic on the TV, and noodled on the internets for most of the afternoon. Still I did hit my 500 word target.
Today, I went down mid-morning for a ground-work lesson which had to be post-poned, due to a double-booking of the indoor school. Instead M and I walked out again with J and her Norwegian horse. We did a good hour this time, and R was very well behaved all things considered. He took the lead some of the time, and took his time looking at everything, and smelling everything that looked interesting, and he got a little rushy at the end, but was sanguine about bikes, people, and even a dog carrying most of a tree-trunk in its mouth. Afterwards, J came into the school with me and I rode M bareback for the first time!! My first time bare-back riding ever, in fact! It felt _very_ different. I could balance myself while being led, but I couldn't balance and steer! Still was v good fun and I will have to practice more.
I also cleared some more space in my room, and have now just finished packing up the last of the stuff that was in my parents' house. There are still boxes to be moved into storage, but just having reached this stage feels like a big achievement. I've now got to negotiate when I can get it moved to the storage place and work out how I fit any more stuff into my cubby-hole of a bedroom...
Right. Back to see whether I can get those last few words before bed.
I might try to see whether I can squeeze out another before I go to sleep tonight, but then again I might give myself the night off!
Note to Self: When the words are refusing to come, it is - yet again - because you are insisting on them being the RIGHT words. Stoppit. Allow them to be the wrong words and a) the words come and b) they are usually more right than when you are checking their credentials at the door like an overzealous bouncer...
Once back at the yard, I untacked and then M and I went back out on foot this time, giving a lead to a baby Norwegian Fjord who needed some practice encountering other road users. Norwegian pony was very interested to discover that this was where all the other horses went to when they left the field, and did not object noticeably to cars, bikes, people or dogs. To be counted a success therefore!
I've got a lesson next weekend, which I'm really looking forward to... I think M enjoyed it last time too, which is good!
Right, onwards and upwards... Words to make.
So that took me a little longer than my usual half an hour, but I had to move rooms because I was getting distracted by A's phone call.
And it was like pulling teeth... It always comes easier when I do them first thing in the morning, literally just after I've woken up - I think the critical faculties have not kicked in at that point. Also, I have pushed it today - written 3 blocks of 250 (roughly - it works out at a bit more than that but it's not allowed to be less than 250) - to try and see how difficult that was.
OK, to 'splain - I started setting myself a routine of writing a section of 250 words every morning, setting my alarm half an hour earlier, and making the words before I set foot out of my bedroom and hit the shower. That has been working well - I often open the computer thinking that I have not a clue what is coming next, but by the time I've hit the end of my 250 block, I'm usually warmed up and I've found the next little section of the narrative. It also seems to work well with the day's break between blocks, in refilling the well and getting a sense of what should come next.
However, if I want this draft to be finished before next autumn, I am going to have to write more than 250 words 5 times a week. So I'm attempting to up the ante - 1250 words during the working week, and another 1250 over the weekend. (I might have to tweak that, depending what I can actually get - the horse stuff often takes up a significant chunk of my weekends. And the flaw in this, is that it doesn't count polishing time - I'm currently first drafting and simultaneously second-drafting a chapter or so behind, to tidy up for first readers, who are getting it piece by piece.)
This also means less time for processing between blocks, which is harder. And the section that I'm on at the moment, seems to be confused about what order it's coming in. I wrote the first quarter-chapter (for ease of calculation and self-analysis, I'm aiming for chapters of roughly 5k, and usually divided into at least two equal sections/scenes and sometimes four) - and have now come to the conclusion that it should come in third position. The scene I was drafting for second position, stays in second, but now comes before the scene it previously followed, and I've still got to write the first and fourth sections... All fun and games...!
Well, I didn't make my challenge... I got a page of solid (if not perfect) prose - mostly from Saturday. Today events just upped and ran away with me - what with the unexpected crises on top of the things I already had planned - well, let's just say, I didn't spend a lot of the day sitting in front of the computer.
The thing I was struggling with most was what
Today, I also rode, played football, shopped, took the dog for a long walk, and cooked a roast... Now, I am v tired, and will sleep...!
More on the riding, later...
So, I'm calling myself on this - I've got an unusual free day - the house to myself, and nothing scheduled - so, that means that this is a writing day...!
Now, the last few times that I've attempted to take myself one of those, what has happened is that I manage to consistently derail my intent, by procrastinating so badly, that I only manage to get the odd paragraph done. Hence the challenge here.
I challenge myself to write three pages (computer pages) of draft on the current chapter - doesn't have to be good, just has to be quantity for now - by the end of today. And then I have to come back here and blog on the result!
Ready, steady, get set, GO...
Well - here we are...*looks about*... hmmm, spacious, isn't she!
Testing, testing... one, two, one, two... This feels rather like standing on a lit stage in front of a darkened auditorium, just you and that microphone, and suddenly you can't quite remember what you came up here to say...
The point of this post was that I wanted to remind myself why I was doing this - perhaps as a way to make this less scary, and to make myself feel more like I have a point to doing it, when there are probably other things I should be doing instead...! And also so that later, when I look back (if I do - I mean I'm not sure how much stamina I'm going to have here...!), I can get that moment of going - so that's what I thought I was doing! - when the process of doing it has changed everything along the way.
So, the main purpose of doing this was to have a place to keep my thoughts about my two main apprenticeships - which are respectively in horse-riding and writing. Because both of them seem to involve a process of thinking about things that is kind of interesting - to me at least, and sometimes it's difficult to remember the inspirations you have along the way. And sometimes you really, really, need to be able to see that you have actually progressed, when you hit another rocky patch and you feel like you are completely skill-less.
So, I've been riding since Feb this year (rode a tiny bit when I was early teens, but never learned properly, just sat on horseback and picked up lots of bad habits), and have just (about three weeks ago) had my first proper fall (*inserts comment about how now only six more before you become a proper rider here* - I was amazed how everybody in the whole world seems to have heard of that one!). Was lucky though - only bruising to my back and some joint soreness, which though v painful, is now all but gone. In its place though, is an increased nervousness, which is v annoying and which I'm trying to work through.
And, I've been writing with intent for about six or seven years now - nothing published, couple of novel-length first drafts completed (really really bad drafts), and a head full of ideas for the other stories that want to be written when the current head-squatter finally moves out. What I'm in the middle of at the moment is a total rewrite of the first of those really bad drafts - I'm about 15 chapters in, but it's taken me over a year! Aargh! *clutches head* I had really hoped that it would go quicker than this, but I am discovering the hard way that this will just take as long as it takes. And, you know what, I'm actually ok with that.
OK, so that's a start, and I've got other things to say, but I'm going to keep them for the next post!