Saturday November 14th – Day 10
A better day. Woke around 5.00am; hit the desk around 6.00. Far from the lethargy of yesterday, I found a rich seam of confidence that extended through the morning and into the afternoon. Daniel became more a solid entity than a work in progress and the depth of his potential began to reveal itself. It’s a little like peering down a well; sometimes you think you can see the bottom and at other times you can see nothing further than a round, black hole at the end of a long tunnel. For me, and I can only speak for myself, the reason has to do with both my ignorance and the difference, as I understand it, between method and methodology. Method is a systematic or established procedure, such as research, with or through which we achieve a task; whereas methodology is the system of those methods and how we employ them. This is going to sound like one of those dreadful sporting axioms – if the ball had gone in the back of the net, it would have been a goal or if he’d crossed the line first, he would have won – but writing a novel is a fairly simple ‘a to b’ process. You interview your sources, accumulate your information and pick up the pen; that’s the method. How we justify inclusion or exclusion, how we apply or employ that accumulated information, to aid us in figuring out the plot and the order in which we lay it out, is a wholly separate discipline; that’s the methodology. As to my ignorance? Well, ignorance is defined as a lack of knowledge or information. So, I’ve realised my challenging day yesterday was down to my not allowing myself sufficient time for accumulating the right information, establishing the correct procedure or working out how to apply both. This is, of course, why it takes a long time – with Constant Tides, it was two years – to write a novel.
This lockdown challenge doesn’t permit me time to accumulate information, establish procedure or play with both; I have to rely, pretty much, on the information already spread about my grey matter. Sure, I have Google open, but you can’t assimilate much information in the time it takes to read a page and hope to use it in the better interests of your characters and story: it’s just not enough time, believe me. So, how does one navigate without a sextant and clock? The answer is to go where you know, try not to get drawn into rocky waters and don’t put your sail up until you’re sure the wind is coming from the right quarter. In other words, write what you know, avoid what you don’t and don’t allow outside forces to influence your thinking.
Just now, I don’t have the facility to get out and do my legwork, which is crucial to assembling information. I’ll give you an example. Sitting outside the Bar Santoro in the Piazza Cairoli, in Messina, I was driven to ask the names of the trees providing us with shade. Christine thought they were a genus of fig; Tony and I were none the wiser. So, Tony got up from our table and buttonholed a passer-by, asking him if he knew. He apologised, he didn’t. We tried Google and various apps, but no, they were no help either. Ten minutes later, our passer-by reappeared to inform us the trees were ‘ficus benjamina’ or weeping fig trees, and showed us a picture from an old, leatherbound encyclopedia of trees. Sometimes, there is no substitute for legwork.
Ciao. Until tomorrow.