Thursday, 9 June 2011

Clockwork rising

I haven't stopped paying attention. Night sounds still crowd my ancient windows while the cat bolts under the blankets on top of my bed. She'll burrow and curl herself into a dear little bat-eared knot. Wait out the worst of the overnight cold with her measured breaths and unconscious whirrings. She'll emerge at a predetermined signal, known only to cats, step delicately across my shoulders and face. Paw to nose, paw to eye, paw to hair.

I might sleep through bat-eared whirrings and the hallway pulling cold breaths under doorways until well past first light. I may sit all night bent as a bachelor over hand-written piles of nothing or like last night I might lean back upon pillows and read through the hours of other people's words.

Some people ask me if I would be so kind as to read what they have written and tell them what I think. This happens more frequently than it used to, I suspect it has something to do with being the editor of a magazine. I always used to say no, some writers are horrifyingly precious, won't even take a modicum of measured feedback given gently, with sugar, in a positive light. Witnessing floods of tears followed by defensive justifications is not my idea of a good afternoon. Of course there are always people I will read for, writers who have the good grace to ask for an opinion only when they genuinely want one.

I was sent some writing the other day, parts of a journal not yet worked up into something bigger. He would like to know my opinion on whether or not they are worth the working. I debated whether or not to say yes. Not because he is precious or a terrible writer but because one of the great joys of my existence is reading other people's journals or diaries or scrawlings, notes, jottings, ideas, brain blurts. Anything that was written just for them. I took a moment to balance my desires. It seemed possible that if I said yes it would be to satisfy my own urge as a favour to myself and not to him.

It is not the first time he has sent me something to read, he is someone who knows what they are doing and would not send through pages without thinking it through first, so I said yes and I'm glad that I did.

There is nothing more magnificent than a writer with an open throttle, when thought and language combine in lightning fast unconscious combinations. All the good bare bones are there on those pages, whole paragraphs of flowing prose shot through with real and jagged ideas still hot and bloody. I adore this stage of other people's work. Every word is a footstep further into the usually guarded mind, sentences are raw and intentions unclear. I feel like a scientist with a microscope wondering at new puzzles of the universe. It is the very best reason for staying up late, a silent joyful worship for the absence of a clockwork rising.

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