Follow the map …

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I was lucky enough to spend Easter in Prague. It’s the second time we’ve been there but this is the first time we’ve visited the DOX Centre for Contemporary Art, which is where I took this photograph.
This mind map was on the wall near the entrance to the exhibition of Eva Jiricna’s architecture, so I’m not sure if she created it, or if it’s there permanently. Either way, I identified with the creative process it details: the mess-ups and detours, the going in circles and the dead ends. It also made me question the way I work. Look at the right hand side, ‘work, work, work’. Is that really me, nose to the grindstone. Probably not, at least, not in terms of writing. Why? Well, things get in the way, my job for example, cleaning the house, walking the dog, going for a swim, going to the pub or a gig, messing about with collages and composite fictions (a phenomenally rewarding distraction).
I used to be able to cut myself off and I probably had more focus (in terms of poetry at any rate). These days, however, I embrace distractions. I won’t allow myself to feel bad about this because it’s a way of feeding my thoughts. I do realise though, that when you’re fixed on a goal, writing or otherwise, your work has more of a purpose. You know (at least vaguely) where the writing’s going, what you want to achieve. I’ve had eighteen months or so where I’ve not been sure of where I’m heading, even though I still write and get poems published fairly regularly.  This lack of direction is self-induced; after my last pamphlet was published, I was determined to experiment, and to do something different. Up to now, I’ve let that principle guide me.
Thinking about that mind map – work,work,work – has acted as a reminder that a few published poems over the course of a year isn’t really that much writing, and also that thinking isn’t the same as doing, although of course it’s important to the process. You have to do the work if you want to create. So, I’m going to give myself a target, or rather a word count. I must fill the equivalent of two pages of my notebook each day. The notebook is A5 so my target’s small. That’s not important. What matters is that I’m writing regularly, and hopefully with a little more direction (I have a theme nudging me into action but I’m too nervous of it to share it at the moment) . So, let’s see how working to a target influences what I produce.  In the meantime, in case you don’t know Jiricna’s work, here’s one of her glass staircases. This is what it looks like when someone hits their target:

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2 thoughts on “Follow the map …

  1. This strikes a chord, Julie. After six years of nonstop production I realise a) I’m barrel-scraping, b) I can’t think clearly, and c) there seems to be nothing that is exciting the right cortex. I know the things that did it. It might be those first residentials, it was almost certainly the culture shock of the Alicante landscape, it was immersion in books about Antarctic exploration, it was all of Macfarlane, it was Fanthorpe’s Tyndale in Darkness, it was MacCaig. Suddenly nothing hits the sweet spot. No new ideas, no excitement. Something will turn up. I believe that. I go on writing. Writing anything, to keep the words moving, but that’s all. Not the real deal. I thought I’d cracked it a month ago, but it was an illusion. Your posts over the last year have given me a lot of comfort. Maybe we’re like the land that needs to lie fallow a while. Or my apple tree that is going to have a year off this year, as apple trees will, after two big harvests. But anyway, thank you xxx

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  2. Yes John, when I saw this mind map I had a light bulb moment, not on the level of inspiration so much as realisation – the realisation that I wasn’t putting the work in. Hopefully I’m back on track, although not in the direction I expected (more on that another day). Still, it’s always a wavering course. Julie x

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