Building A Cathedral, One Word At A Time

Far away in a bookA friend of mine, a voracious reader, recently said she will read the same books over and over because she wants to be with those people, to spend her life with them, and not here in the real world with all its harshness and doubt.

As a novelist I’m aiming to write books with that sort of magnetism, that glamour, whenever I sit down to write.

Those secret threads tug at my hands on the keyboard as firmly as the words of others, elusive wisps of other worlds which are harder to paint with text than with pencil or brush.

At times I wish I had more artistic skills. My hands are suited for brutish endeavours – hammering metal, sawing timber, shaping stone. The finesse of the fine artist eludes me.

Perhaps it’s the patience I lack.

Which makes writing novels even more of a mystery. Why spend months working on a story when a poem can move the same emotions in an hour’s preparation?

Perhaps it’s the grandeur I crave.

The satisfaction of a well-crafted poem is akin to a tiny tattoo. Sometimes only you and your beloved know of its existence.

The charm of a short story lies in its structure, in surprise, in a breathless rush like an afternoon’s concert enjoyed before the last train home to family, or to an evening job with no soul.

A novel contains more theatre than a short story, more hand-waving, more depth.

A sweeping panorama unveiled, word by word, from the mind of the writer to the reader beyond.

A snowdrift of ideas. An eiderdown when the world is cold; a welcome, when the world is harsh; a sanctuary to hold you safe until the story’s over.

A novel is a tapestry.

Many threads weave through a novel, layers and colours and textures, each adding their part to a story which can spread across space like a handshake. When one’s complete, the finished piece adds to the body of work in the same way each stonemason’s carvings add to a Gothic cathedral.

That’s the work of years, not hours.

Interior of a Gothic Cathedral, 1612, Paul Vredeman de Vries (Los Angeles County Museum of Art, USA)

Interior of a Gothic Cathedral, 1612, Paul Vredeman de Vries (Los Angeles County Museum of Art, USA)

Published in: on August 13, 2014 at 12:00 am  Comments (1)  
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Glamour. Definition:

“an attractive or exciting quality that makes certain people or things seem appealing;

enchantment; magic”

At a friend’s 50th birthday party – my novel on the table, his on another friend’s Kindle and a tape of his band playing in the background.

His actor friend fresh from an audition, rolling his baritone voice around accents and anecdotes.

Another guest, a woman of elegant years, learning to play the bass guitar, her tutor once part of a successful heavy metal band – and a moment of less-than-six-degrees-of, as another guest realised they too knew the same guy, in a different setting.

The neighbour, a retired airman, restoring a Spitfire in the garage behind his mid-Victorian terrace. three demijohns of wine in the sunshine

Home-printed beer labels, professionally impressive, on bottles of a home-brewed beer that lived up to all the hype promised on paper. Wine too, and bread; jam and pickles and cake. Fresh-grown strawberries from the garden. Honey from back-garden bees.

Three voices reading a story in parts, and our fresh laughter filling the room.

From webs like this is true glamour spun, and the lives we lead outside our work weave tighter webs than within.

There are so many of us creative folk making our art outside the confines of an artist’s life. Some of us prefer the regularity of a monthly pay cheque. Some of us find the flim-flam and puffery of promotion too preposterous. Some of us don’t want to delve into the depths of our souls to find meaningful work, and push out our perfectly formed art without searching for angst or drama that might not be there in the first place.

And some of us – poets, I’m looking at you – know we won’t pay the bills with our art, ever. Doesn’t stop us making it. Because it’s ours.

Glamour lies in the life, not the gloss.

Published in: on August 15, 2013 at 12:00 am  Comments (7)  
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