The word “process” implies some sort of replicable ritual, something which can be followed to the end to get results. The sad truth, alas, is that usually it doesn’t all go down in the right order, it’s usually heavily punctuated with coffee, washing, or walks to the library, and it often lacks really satisfying results. Creating a ritual around my writing is important, but perhaps the most helpful part of that ritual is when it doesn’t go to plan.
While walking through the cemetery early this week, I discovered the Springthorpe Memorial. It really moved me, but I had no idea how I could use that. I came home and executed some boring pages about nothing much.
Next evening, I was playing with the magnetic poetry-makers on my fridge and came up with the following, which I somehow feel was inspired by the character of Sonmi-451 in David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. The poem read:
“How the monkey did wander
I wrote that down, because it made me sad.
The next morning I started working on a poem about the Springthorpe Memorial, using the idea of sad wandering, and talking about the fierce angels which guard the doctor’s “O Sweetheart Mine”. I’ve been researching all the sculptors who created the many statues around Melbourne, and I have no idea where that’s going to go but it seems useful.
And that’s the trajectory of just one piece. Just one piece which is still unfinished, so the “process” which guides me to the end of it may take a bunch of twists and turns along the way. The point is that I planned time to write about the Springthorpe Memorial, and it was balls. This doesn’t mean that I think getting up and making myself write is balls – far from, I find it very important. But in this case, the unplanned stuff was my way in – it was helpful.