The muse

Hesiod and the Muse

Hesiod and the Muse (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(Whoops! I forgot to post this on Monday, though I had finished it on Sunday)

My musings are generally thought up on the spur of the moment, as I’ve said before. Sometimes I get an idea a few days before I write my post, but sometimes it will come to me when I open WordPress and click on the “new post” link. Today’s post is inspired by a new television show that has just started here, about someone who writes a newspaper column. “Inspired” is too grand a word for it really – the TV show gave me the idea.

I’ve set myself a target of a thousand words per week. The writer in the TV series (called “800 Words“) has a column that is exactly 800 words long. He has just suffered a bereavement and decides to take his kids and relocate to a small town in New Zealand.

1000 words to the big crater (19)

1000 words to the big crater (19) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Naturally the kids don’t want to go, and when he gets to his new home, it’s only half built and it isn’t the house that he thought it was. On the trip to the new house he meets a bunch of eccentric locals and stumbles on the local nudist beach. So far, so standard sitcom. I’ll have to see how it goes, but it has apparently gone down well in Australia.

The interesting thing to me, for the purposes of this blog, is the 800 words thing. OK, I set myself a target of over 1000 words, and I generally don’t go many words over that, but to keep it to exactly 800 words seems a bit obsessive. The writer, as part of the continuity of the story, is seen typing his article, and the number of words is shown on the screen.

Now, I don’t (usually) take much notice of the structure of my blogs – I don’t do an intro, a body, and a wrap up, but I presume the writer does (or is supposed) as he is writing for a newspaper. That’s more complicated than what I do. I can imagine reaching around 900 words and realising that I need to do a wrap up in 100 words or so. Or worse, maybe, reaching 750 to 800 words and realising that you’ve covered your main points and the wrap up is going to have to be stretched to 200 to 250 words.

Of course he is a professional writer so such matters are his bread and butter. This brings me to another point. He gets paid for his column, and apparently gets paid enough to feed himself and his kids! This is slightly more than a little bit unbelievable, to say the least, as what he is shown writing amounts to not much more than a blog. If he writes 800 words a day, 5 days a week that amounts to 4,000 words, and his rate per word would have to be astronomical to keep him and his kids fed and watered.

The writers of the series have thrown in a few classic clichés in the first episode. There’s the end of the world cell phone coverage or lack of it. There’s the being swindled by the savvy locals, and there’s the saving the bad boy by hiding him from the cops thing. Oh well, perhaps things will get better. It’s not that bad a little show.

The writer in the show is inspired to write about all the things that are happening to him, so he has a ready source of material but my intent is not to make my blog anecdotal in that way. I might mention stuff in passing (like the Rugby World Cup. Yeah! All Blacks!) but in general I want my post to be like a bead necklace with beads on a wire, rather than a single long chain of interrelated links.

Cloisonne beads

Cloisonne beads (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of course, I will use the same themes repeatedly, such as science or maths or computing, just as a bead necklace generally has similar beads in many places but my intent is that each “bead” will stand alone.

I get messages from WordPress saying that so and so is now following my blog, but I don’t know what that really means. Does it mean that Mr Blobby is avidly waiting for my blog to come out and is disappointed if I am late? Probably not! But thank you for reading the blog, even if you only do it once. I do occasionally go and look at the blogs of those who are mentioned as following me and I may follow some of them.

Start of the Oracle Act

Start of the Oracle Act (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nevertheless, I write my posts with no specific reader in mind. By that I mean that I don’t visualise a person reading, which is odd, because that means that I send my words off into a vacuum. They must however sound good to me, as I write them, and if something that sounds awkward to me reaches the page, it gets altered.

Actually now I come to think about it, the “me” that writes the words seems to be different, or slightly separated from the “me” that does the reading, like Siamese twins in my head. It’s like a different aspect of myself.

"Head of a muse" by Raffaello Sanzio

“Head of a muse” by Raffaello Sanzio (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For me the actual process of writing goes like this. I form a sentence or part of a sentence in my head and start to type it. My reading self closely follows this process and notices any typos and mistakes and my writing self corrects them, but these things happen so fast and the two processes are so integrated that it seems seamless.

It’s like an ongoing game of ping pong in my head. One part of my mind says to type the word “the”. Another part tells the fingers what to do. I’m unaware or maybe unconscious of what this part is doing, and I specifically don’t think “move the fingers to the letter t and push”. So far as the conscious part of my mind is concerned it just happens.

The fingers move and the letters get typed. Another conscious part of my mind follows the letters that appear on the screen and passes off to an unconscious part the instructions to edit and retype. After a person has been writing for a while, it seems to your conscious mind that you think the words onto the screen.

Hmm, I’ve reached just over a 1000 words, so it is time to stop. I’ve shifted from talking about the muse and shifted to the mechanics. Either way the process is, as usual, more complex than it appears at first. I’ll have to think some more about how my words reach the page.

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