I do not like to reread my own critical writing. I have known this fact about myself for quite a long time. In fact, one thing that surprised me when I started writing here was that I so enjoyed rereading and tinkering with my posts all day (something that those of you who read me through Bloglines may notice; as I understand, it alerts you when something new happens, even if it's not something worth noting at all). A few weeks ago, as you know, I finished writing an essay (about which I didn't really tell you anything, largely because I like this one's topic enough not to want to have it scooped), and since then, I've gotten word back from friends and readers, saying that it's all but ready to go way beyond me, out to the big big world of journals and anonymous readers. I have Aspirations for this one, will send it all the way to the top, just to see what happens.
But first I have to perform some small revisions.
And it took me until yesterday to stop puttering around vaguely, in the vicinity of the essay's hard copy, and actually reread the thing. For at least a week, I've been writing daily in my midday journal about how I hope to finish the revisions in the next couple of days. Those "next couple" keep being days and days later than I originally intended. I've reread that whole incredibly difficult and enigmatic Carlyle book just to avoid rereading my own work, and what I've written (and the tasks I've got before me) are really kind of nothing beside Carlyle's involutions.
I chalk it all up to vestiges of that old, dear fear--that sweet, sad dog, as one of you called it back in October when I tried to dump it mercilessly (and mostly succeeded!)--that when I look at my own work, I'll find that it's awful.
After my haircut yesterday, I came home and sat at my desk, where I'd left the print-out and my latest written assurance to myself that I would reread it, and that it would prove not to be a disaster. I frittered for about 45 minutes, doing something I don't even recall. I almost decided that since I had only about two hours before formal hall, I'd finish reading another of the books I'm clearing off my "things I'm reading" lists, which have (in my distraction and avoidance of the essay) grown mightily in the last few weeks, even (as you may have noticed) spawning a new "back burner" list--things I've begun but restlessly put aside, books on walking and on language and on exploration. Somehow I stayed at the desk. Somehow I picked up my Fineliner and started reading my own first paragraph. Somehow reading the first paragraph got me to reading page 10 before I noticed that I'd stuck with it. And somehow I'd finished rereading it within about an hour, just as I'd told myself (before the haircut) that I would. Somehow I even had time to pop into a second bath for the day, to read some more of the book I'd planned to read instead of reading my own work, to remove more unnecessary hair from my body, and to kit myself up in fine fashion for dinner, all in plenty of time to make it to my dear friends' flat for some pre-dinner companionship.
The more I do these things, the more I know that they can be done.
I'm writing early today because I've just seen that the weather forecast has us reaching into the 60s for the first time this spring, sometime this afternoon, and that has resolved me: I am going to have a shower, have a bowl of cereal, and then have a crack at putting my revision notes into practice. With some diligence and a little bit of writer's luck, I think that I can finish what I want to do while it's still early in the afternoon.
And then, I think, I'll stroll out with some book or another under my arm, cash in my Caffe Nero loyalty card for a free cappuccino to go, take it to one of the less monitored of the fellows' gardens, and perch on a bench in the sun. With any luck, this time I won't even see anyone I know making out with someone else.
Reading Sara Fanelli's fantastic new(ish) book, Sometimes I Think, Sometimes I Am, which unfortunately seems not to be available in the U.S., I discovered a Thoreau quote that I might have known before but that I'd definitely forgotten. Thoreau was a great source of aphorisms that have come way out of context, showing up on t-shirts and greeting cards and bumper stickers everywhere. To my mind, this kind of dispersal doesn't mean that he's not worth listening to (which, in turn, doesn't mean that he shouldn't be argued with). "The price of anything," he says in this quote whose source I can't find yet, "is the amount of life you exchange for it." Both of late and in the farther-back, I've exchanged more of my life than I'd like to think about on people and things eminently not worth that much. One corrects such things one moment at a time. Moments become hours; hours become days; days become weeks. Time is its own currency; sometimes I forget.
Tiny birds--blue tits, mostly--peep about in the silver birches outside; the birches are getting their leaves, all of a sudden, so now their catkins and their leafbuds fringe hot green together. All along the river, the willows are new-green, thirsty ripening green.
There's growth everywhere, is what I'm saying, and where there's not yet growth, there's preparation for growth. And so it is that pollarding comes to look like a more fertile figure than I'd have guessed it might be, even two days ago.
And now, twelve hours later (at 11:07 p.m.), the article is in where it's going. Not "all the way up" after all; at lunch, I remembered how much I dislike that journal anyway. Why would I send my stuff somewhere I don't like? I sent it somewhere else instead. Now we'll see what happens--probably in several months. What's important is that it's now off my hands for awhile, leaving said hands open for further typing on further projects. But I think it must be said: I'm feeling a little sour in the mouth and generally freaked out right now.