So, having caught the rat…

I was dozing; that place between wakefulness and sleep, where dreams come fast and easy, vivid and crisp, and sometimes disturbing.

My wife had been up, potting her plants, for a good 30 minutes, when she barged into the bedroom.

“We’ve caught one!” she yelled, and then vanished from the room.

I mumbled something nonsensical, rolled over, and dreamt of a big rat. Because I was in That Place, and when my wife said, “We’ve caught one!” I knew that that “one” meant rat.

Having had enough of my crazy rat-infested dreams, I got up and went to check on the wee fella.

There he was, with eyes like shiny black pearls, cowering in the corner of the humane trap we’d laid: a plastic tube, with tasty food (poison, actually) at the far end. To get the goodies, Roland had to stand on a switch, which then slammed shut the pair of wild-west-style doors, locking him inside.

So, technically, we hadn’t caught one; Roland caught himself… because he was hungry. So hungry he would eat succulent poison.

Speaking of succulent, that’s how we first discovered we were having rattish visitors on our balcony; we found teeth marks in our succulents—my wife’s pride and joy. Hence why she declared war on Roland and all of his friends and family, and bought poison and traps.

(Weeks ago:

Me: Don’t get poison. I don’t want a dead rat on the balcony.

Wife: No, this poison just makes them thirsty.

Me: So, what, you’re gonna give it poison and then a refreshing drink to wash it down?

Wife: No. They eat the stuff, and then they need a drink, so they go down to the sewers-

Me: Like Shredder.

Wife: Who?

Me: Never mind. Carry on.

Wife: So they go into the sewers, and die there, instead of up here.

(Meaning our balcony, which is a rooftop apartment on the 5th floor.)

Me: OK. But if we find a dead rat, you’re getting rid of it.

Wife: Yup. Sure.

Jump forward a fortnight. I’m taking the clothes out of the washing machine, and I see something at the corner of my eye. Something brown, wet, still.

Wife: Oh, my god! I’m gonna be sick! Get rid of it! Get rid of it!

(I got rid of it.)

Roland’s sister (let’s call her Rhonda) was trying to drink the water, that had accumulated from the washing machine, near the drain.

Rhonda smelt of gas.)

So now, with Roland, alive and kind of well, in our trap, I was pretty pleased.

No gas rat!

I ignored my wife’s war-like cries from behind the door (“Kill it! Kill it! Kill it!”), put the rat-in-a-trap in a bag, and took it to the local park.

I don’t mean to, like, let it have a blast on the swings or anything, but to set it free.

It took a while, but eventually he realised the doors were open, then pegged it into the nearest bush.

A happy ending for Roland.

Gavin

Writing & Fleming

I have an annoying tendency to edit and reedit as I’m writing my story.

I say it’s annoying, but in actual fact I love doing it and can’t imagine not doing it.

And that’s the problem.

It means I end up stalling at one specific point in the story for far too long, and so the story doesn’t move forward as fast as I’d like it to.

Is this an issue with being a perfectionist? Is it a crazy idea or belief that my first draft will be exposed and ridiculed, and all the doubts I had as a writer will be proven correct?

Didn’t Hemingway do this?

Didn’t he start the writing day by reading what he’d previously written, making edits as he went, and when it got too long he simply reread and edited the last 5,000 words or so—just to get into the story, to get into the mood, the vibe?

Maybe I’m trying to justify my lack of confidence as a writer.

But surely every writer has Those Doubts, right?

(And we continue to write in the face of them.)

Last night I read an article about Ian Fleming, the author best known for penning the James Bond novels.

The article includes excerpts from the book, The Man with the Golden Typewriter (which has been added to me ever-growing to-read list).

He talks about his lack of confidence:

‘I was too ashamed. No publisher would want it and if they did I would not have the face to see it in print.’ 

And the article gives an insight into how he worked…

‘I rewrote nothing and made no corrections until my book was finished,’ he said. ‘If I had looked back at what I had written the day before I might have despaired at the mistakes in grammar and style, the repetitions and the crudities. And I obstinately closed my mind to self-mockery and “what will my friends say?” I savagely hammered on until the proud day when the last page was done. The last line “The bitch is dead now” was just what I felt. I had killed the job.’

But how do you do this? How can you let a hole in the plot stay a hole? Don’t you want to fill it, correct it, perfect it, and THEN move on?

I might give it a go… just write to the end without correcting anything whatsoever.

Or maybe I won’t.

Here’s the article.

Gavin

Writing, Coffee, Gaiman

I think I’ve found a routine that works for me.

As soon as my wife leaves for work at around 9/9:30am, I fire up the laptop and work at the kitchen table until lunch time. Then I take a 15-minute walk to a cafe called Bean Works.

(They do an amazingly fruity Kenya AA… and they’ve just started doing cheesecake, lemon tarts, and tiramisus… and I’m getting sidetracked…)

So that’s where I went today. It was heaving, which was unusual, so I got a window seat, watched a few doves prancing around outside, then opened my laptop, and got to work.

I’m still writing the children’s fantasy story for the Taiwanese movie director. It’s the second version because, although he (and I) liked the first version, it needed fixing, and I didn’t know how to fix it (think of it as needing spinal surgery), so, staring my anxiety in the face, I said a massive Ah, fuck it! and started to write a completely new version.

I’m roughly 6,000 words into it.

He’s wanting it to be around 28/30k. So technically it’s a novella.

I’m taking my time with it, because that’s what he told me to do.

“Take your time,” he said.

But I’m thinking I’d get it done a lot faster, if he gave me a deadline.

… not like I’m gonna ask him for one…

Got to Bean Works at around 3pm, and after lots of typing and deleting, and deleting and typing, (and more *sigh* deleting), I left for dinner at 7pm.

(Went to a veggie buffet.)

As is my wont, I stuck in my earphones, and scrolled down my Watch Later list on YouTube, to see if anything tickled my fancy.

Something did tickle my fancy, and it was this: a superb interview with the fantastic Neil Gaiman. (I’m reading The Graveyard Book at the moment. Thoroughly enjoying it.) He’s being interviewed by Tim Ferriss.

It’s probably one of, if not thee, best interviews I’ve seen with Gaiman. Thought you might like it, too:

SUPERB NEIL GAIMAN INTERVIEW

Gavin

Do Nothing on Earth Day

A friend sent me a nice article about how we can benefit the earth, on Earth Day (today), by doing nothing.

You can read the article here.

It’s inspired by Lao Tzu’s ancient message that the wise do nothing yet nothing is left undone. (Which in Chinese is called wu wei… no-action.)

This is all well and good. I’ve been a meditator for nearly two decades. Some of my greatest, most awe-inspiring moments have been whilst sitting on my meditation cushion, and to any onlooker, I would be doing absolute zilch.

We can push and push and push for our goals to come to fruition (guilty party here), but sometimes by standing back and taking a breather, we can get more done because our approach ends up being refreshed.

That time away, that time of reflection, can help us see, perhaps, that we have been pushing in the wrong direction all along, and we need to change our course of action, to one that is more coherent to our truth.

And also, too many logs on the fire can kill the flames… we don’t want to burn ourselves out, which is always a danger when doing becomes a habit.

Having said all that, I’m beginning to feel that Lao Tzu didn’t mean that one should do nothing.

“Flowing water never grows stale,” as the saying goes (although I think I’m quoting Bruce Lee there, I’m pretty certain the saying’s from way before his time).

I think the “you” Lao Tzu was referring to is your ego, your mind-made self, the you in your head, and therefore “you” do nothing but everything gets done that needs to get done.

Why?

Because life, when “you” (your [insert your name]-ism) gets out of the way, life is free to act through you without being blocked… you being a vessel of pure awareness. 

Surely if Lao Tzu practiced wu wei in the way that many of us think about no-action, he wouldn’t have written the Tao Te Ching. 

And therefore we can say, if he did practice what he preached, which I’m sure he did, then he didn’t write that amazing book at all.

Life wrote it, using the vessel we have come to call Lao Tzu.

So, enjoy Earth Day, and by all means do nothing. But don’t take that nothing so literally.

You know, like, at least brush your teeth and have a wash. Make a nice, light lunch, too. That might be nice.

And smile. And love strangers. And allow people to believe what they want to believe. Love animals (especially dogs). And eat nice food and drink good coffee and tea. Read good books. Laugh. Smile at trees, the ocean, a stream, a leaf blowing over your head. Take care of a plant. Go to bed in good time. Watch movies that make you feel good about being here. Smile when your head hits the pillow at night – and definitely smile when your eyes open in the morning. Plant a tree. Go to the cinema alone. Book a table-for-one in a restaurant. Return a smile with a smile. Help someone who needs help. Be willing to give advice when it’s asked for. Take a flier from someone in the street, and say thank you and wish them a wonderful day.

You get the gist.

Be nice. The earth likes it when we’re nice.

G.


When the Tree Meets (A Poem)

When the tree meets the wind,

they dance an ancient dance,

choreographed by the mountains,

before shushing themselves to rest.

When the tree meets the snow,

the tree willingly takes on the snow’s burden,

cold and heavy,

making its branches frown.

When the tree meets the sun,

they celebrate one another’s presence,

with colours and perfumes,

making the birds sing.

When the tree meets the rain,

the rain makes the tree laugh

tears of joy,

nourishing its roots, like only laughter can.

When the tree meets the storm,

it waits patiently for the heavens

to settle their differences,

smiling at their drama.

When the tree meets the moon,

it tells of who it has met in the day,

before falling asleep,

listening to the stars.

G.

Do You Remember? (A Poem)

Do you remember to go easy on yourself,

when control appears to be slipping away?

Do you remember what it was like to lose control,

and be OK with it,

even smile at it?

Do you remember what it was like to laugh

at your mistakes,

with the knowledge that mistakes are part of It?

Do you remember to love yourself,

to have patience with yourself,

to have compassion for yourself,

to forgive yourself,

when the world,

to your ears and eyes,

doesn’t?

Do you remember to trust,

to take leaps of faith,

into the dark,

even when those around you say stay safe,

and be careful?

Do you remember to breathe,

to know what it’s like to breathe,

as a child,

knowing that this breath is completely new,

and will never be again?

Do you remember to look and see,

without knowing what you’re looking at:

without needing to know?

Do you remember to forgive those

that did you wrong,

at some other time and place,

when they were lost,

and acted as if they knew?

Do you remember that you are

what you are looking for,

and that it’s OK,

completely safe,

to stop looking?

Do you remember that you are?

Do you remember that one day,

you won’t be,

and that This is it?

Do you remember to be at peace

with This?

Do you remember that everything’s

going to be OK?

G.

Mozzi – A Poem

Because of you,

Mosquito,

we got up before the sun,

and filled the apartment with the smell

of freshly-baked bread.

Because of you,

Mosquito,

we sat on the tatami,

reading our books,

drinking coffee,

commenting on this and that.

Because of you,

Mosquito,

I had to have a nap

in a cafe,

and awoke to see light and shadow refreshed.

Everything deserved my attention

because of you,

Mosquito,

and everything filled me with wonder.

So I thank you…

Yet I’m sorry,

for you were not welcome in our bedroom,

at 5 am,

which is why I took great pleasure

in zapping you into your next life.

Please don’t come back as a wasp.

My New World of Theatre

I’ve just finished what I consider to be a decent draft of a stage play – my first stage play.

It’s a whole new area of writing for me; a completely new landscape. I don’t know where I am, or which direction to take next. I’m hoping that the fog will clear, and the way will be shown in good time.

I never once before considered writing for theatre, until I realised, very recently, that it’s a perfect medium for some of my ideas to be expressed.

A few days ago I read Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem, and loved every bit of it. My gut was giving me big, fat yesses with every page my eyes gobbled up.

I love how a story can be told in one place – how one place can contain and tell a story.

I’ve no idea who to send my stage play to, or even if I’ve written it in the correct format (I used Final Draft 11 because I treat it like a script – and I love using Final Draft’s night mode). I’ve also no idea if it’s too short: it currently sits at 65 (Final Draft) pages.

What’s the genre? A satire comedy, perhaps.

The bottom line is, I’ve written (again, what I consider to be) a decent draft of my first stage play, with UK theatres in mind.

It’s called Mine, Mine, Mine.

I’ve just bought the book Being a Playwright by Chris Foxon and George Turvey, which I’m hoping will make things a little clearer, by explaining the terrain that’s before me.

I also bought another two Jez Butterworth plays: Mojo and The Ferryman. Looking forward to starting them.

Wishing you well on your creative endeavors.

Here’s to a way forward.

G