Trying to Multi-Task; My Bench

I have a friend who is writing a novel, and he told me the other day that the way I’m going about things is all wrong. He just writes his novel, and he gets about 4 hours done a day. I’m trying to write short stories, I tell people, and poetry, and maybe soon, a novel or two. But at the same time, I’m trying to write comedy, to write stand up.

Now that he points it out, I see what he means. They are all different arts from one another. I have always held that the best stories are so well written that they contain bits that feel like poetry. I’ve always thought that the best novels have scenes that could be taken out and left on their own, as complete short stories (especially as so many short stories these days seem to start in the middle and finish somewhere later in the middle of events). I’ve even taken a scene from a short story I wrote and posted it on here as flash fiction, and since that time I’ve never felt inclined to post the whole story on here (mostly because it needs attention I haven’t given it). In this way, I could be said to be following a progression – from poetry to flash fiction to short stories to novels.

The comedy doesn’t fit into this. Partly because I’ve never really written comedy. I’ve written some comic scripts, once upon a time, but not for a long while. Stand up is still a new art for me, something I’ve only tried a handful of times, something I struggle to even start to write.

But the main reason that they don’t work together is that I draw on a different part of my brain when I write comedy. Whereas my fiction is inviting a reader to enter a world I create, comedy is about stepping into someone else’s world and making them laugh at the absurdities in it. They have similarities, in perception, in surrealism, in painting a picture… but they have more differences than similarities.

Writers often say you have to be in the right mood to write. I say that part of the great skill in writing is in training yourself to get into that mood, and the other part is bloody-minded persistence. I’m trying to get into lots of moods at the same time, and I’m not winning at the persistence – yet.

Anyway, I have two stand up comedy performances at the end of the month, so I need to spend a good bit of my writing time preparing for them. And maybe, after I’ve performed those gigs, I’ll have some more comedy in me, some more material, and I’ll write more and perform more. Including my old jokes (if I can find them), I’m probably nearly at the point of having three sets, which is wonderful.

But I miss the fiction, so for the rest of this month, I will try my darnedest to do two things – poetry and comedy. They may be totally different, but at least they are both about editting and cutting down and getting to the point as quickly as possible. And progression, and building on what went before. And over the summer, I’ll sit down and get some flash fiction and some big old short stories out of my brain.

Until then, some poetry!

My Bench

Come, sit. This is my bench.
I sit here, often,
staring out across the pond.
My stick rests just so.

Folks here know it’s mine.
I sat on it in the frozen cold
last year when my wife died,
stared out across the pond.

I sat here after I retired.
We moved here together,
all peaceful. She chose it.
I chose our bench.

I’ve had benches before, and others:
that ink-stained desk at school,
a bunk, a cabinet, a peg,
all mine once, all remembered,

all solid. Now they’ve all gone,
my memory stays… ’til my memory goes.
And this bench, too, you see?
But I’ve got a plan.

It’s not truly yours
’til it’s marked with your name.
So this bench is In My Memory.
Plaque’s made, missing a date.

Who knows where I’ll go next…
but I’ll be on this bench.

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Extract from “The Gardener”

I’m back with more blogging, and this time, spending more time trying to come to terms with image and writing copyright law than with editing.  Luckily, I’ve made friends with the whole Creative Commons movement, so hopefully it won’t take too long to find and choose my photos in future. (To find my sources for my pictures, click on the attached links. If there aren’t any links, then they are either my photos or photos given to me by friends)

“The Gardener” (for want of a better provisional title) is a short story that I wrote last term. This scene was one part of it that I just wrote in about 10 minutes. Every line just seemed to follow every other line, one of those moments when writing is everything you wish it always was – exciting, fun and easy. When you don’t know what your brain is going to offer next, but it delivers.

Looking at it now, it works as a kind of  Flash Fiction on its own (it’s about 1,000 words). It’s possible I’ll end up tidying this up and ditching the rest of the story.

garden-table1
The Gardener

“Did Gary come today?”

“Yes.”

“In the downpour we had this morning? I drove through it on the motorway.”

“He got here before it, and started working on the hedge, but then it started chucking it down.”

Max chuckled. “Got caught in it, did he? And then went home?”

“Yes.”

“He should’ve known it’d rain this morning, just by looking at the sky. That boy is just an opportunist, Charlotte. Dedication. See, if it hadn’t rained, if we’d been wrong, if it had passed and rained somewhere else, think how much he’d’ve got done.” He raised his eyebrows rhetorically, and Charlotte could tell he was about to start a speech, like those he made to junior partners. “He’d be good in the City – he takes his chances when they come, like this, and when he fails it doesn’t even make a dent in his resolution,wet-rose1 he’ll just keep going, keep trying. And then one day, the luck will all go his way, luck’ll be on his side and he’ll really get somewhere in the world. If he keeps pushing, sticks to his guns, doesn’t lose his resolve. That’s how it happened with me, in business, that’s how I got my first real chance. Pushing and graft. And that’s how I got you too, remember? Perseverance, taking my chances, waiting” he leaned in and kissed her on the cheek, “for the right – you all right dear? I’m not too cold, am I?” Max rubbed his hands together. “This damn summer.It’s cold out today, this weather has sucked all the heat out of summer. Did you go back to sleep after we left? You looked tired. Or did you go shopping in the end?”

“No, I thought I’d leave it ‘til tomorrow.”

“Forecast’s no better, I heard it on the radio on the drive home.”

I’ll tell him, she thought. I’ll tell him when he stops talking, I’ll tell him when he asks me about my day. But Max was so full of his day, so certain that, on a rainy day when she didn’t go shopping, that nothing of interest had happened to his wife. So he didn’t ask, but talked on about the merger or verger. But I’ll tell him anyway, she thought. Wouldn’t it just show him for thinking her day boring and uneventful? Before Lucy gets home, not over dinner, after Lucy had gone off to her room, as they were getting ready for bed, she’d tell him, she’d sit him down and get his attention.

Then a thought came from the back of her head that surprised her. Why tell him? It niggled. Why tell him? It won’t happen again, you made sure of that, you told him off, he apologised, he won’t do anything so silly again. Kids make mistakes, as a mother she understood that better than anyone, they make mistakes and learn from them.

Why tell him? He’s a good gardener, punctual, it’d be a hassle, a scene, the neighbours would hear, gossip, her standing. And Gary won’t say anything if she doesn’t tell Max, he’ll be embarrassed. Ashamed, most likely, of making a fool of himself. He might resign anyway, she should give him a chance to, instead of ruining his reputation, she shouldn’t just think of herself, that poor boy has made a fool of himself, but he’ll learn from his mistake.

Why tell him? He didn’t tell her when he flirted with that secretary, which she knew he did, because women know, because she’d seen her look at him, that winning cheek-boned smile, so transparent it was sickly, he wouldn’t really fall for that, but still he hadn’t told her he’d flirted.

She knew he’d flirted with that American correspondent that one time two years ago – these shameless Americans who’ll use their looks and charms to get whatever they want – he’d never told her that. She’d heard a snatch of a business call, and then he’d bought her flowers out of nowhere, and she knew nothing had happened, he’d felt guilty, but nothing had happened, she knew that, but he’d not told her. Been honest. The flowers had been poppies – his favourite, not hers. But the thought was there.

And nothing had happened here. Gary had kissed her, she’d instantly pushed him away, she’d made it thoroughly clear he was mistaken, and it wouldn’t happen again.

So why tell him? And for once, it was strangely nice to feel appreciated. She couldn’t tell Max that, either, he’d be offended: “But I do appreciate you”. He wouldn’t understand, it would cause a row, they’d fight and shout, he’d think her unfaithful, not literally, but he’d think she’d been encouraging the boy, flirting with him. Which she clearly hadn’t. She couldn’t tell him that. So why tell him any of the rest of it?

A smile grew on her face. Years from now, she’d tell him, when she thought he needed a shock. When Gary had gone back to university or wherever, cup_of_earl_grayand they’d gotten a new gardener, and when he was being pompous or talking like he owned her, not respecting her or doing his share. That’d shock him, when he needed it most, when she needed him to pay her a bit more attention. It would be funny, that look of surprise on his face, her teasing, him not knowing if she was lying or not.

“….so hopefully, it’ll all be resolved by the end of the week.” Max stopped, and looked at her. “Am I boring you?”

She smiled, as if at some private joke. “No, sorry dear, I drifted off for a bit in the middle. I was thinking of something else.”

“I suppose I should save that kind of talk for Bill. I told you Bill might come this weekend, come out here for a game of golf and then dinner on Saturday, didn’t I?”

“You did, but is that definite now? Is Julie coming too?”


That night, Max commented that her chicken stew was lacking something.