It’s Friday night, half past ten. You may have detected from the tardy, irregular updates, that I’ve been having a bit of a hard time knuckling down this week.
Not that it’s been “unproductive”. Sure, I’ve been meeting people. There’s been no shortage of good feedback about the project, and exciting new adventures are lining themselves up for next week. Best of all, some of the friendships I formed early on are really starting to firm up.
For example, who could believe that only a week has passed since I first met Tully (and he’s already buggin me with curly questions)? Or that things could be quite solid with Lucy, after only two cups of tea? Or that I lived in Petersham for nearly two years before starting a conversation with Carmela and her daughters from Charlie’s Deli? And who would have known that Chris (“eyes on the street”) could turn out to be such a strong local ally?
Bit by bit, the connections are spreading and blossoming. Gaps are slowly filling in. After four weeks of confinement, the suburb is beginning to feel familiar. I’m receiving a constant flow of visitors from the outside. Locally, the events are piling up: there’s the big music gig happening tomorrow in “Darren’s Backyard”; a BBQ invite from Rachelle and Rob (Wolfie’s parents) on Sunday; a visit to the local historian on Tuesday; yet another BBQ at Tully’s locked in for Wednesday; and a tentative arrangement to step back in time, to the ‘sham circa 1976, with Vanessa on Thursday. I’m waiting for the mayor to get back to me about our collaborative bike ride, and, if you can believe it, I’ve even booked in for a “trial session” at the local gym(!).
So what’s the problem?
I think “the problem” lies with the activity of writing. I’m trying to use text as a documentary tool. My eyes and ears are a camera, my mind the film stock, my keyboard an editing suite, the blog is the cinema where you watch it all played back again (and the comments are the seats from which you heckle).
My “mission” has been to write, each day, about the people I meet, and the things we talk about. What we see, and what we do. Piecemeal writing. Writing without knowing how it will end – just getting it down before the next wave of experience washes over me. As Barbara wrote in an email on Monday:
I think there’s something happening there that you won’t be able to see until it’s over. You’re just seeing the trees at the moment, but we, your readers, can see the woods. And it’s a beautiful ecosystem you’re describing for us Lucas, it really is.
Could my own ignorance be my best asset? I don’t know where The Story of Petersham is headed. How could I possibly know? But what I do sense is this: that if I leave too much time between “the having” of an experience, and getting to the computer to hammer it out – even just one or two days – the events fade a little in my memory. They fade – not a huge amount, but just enough, so that their craggy, variegated surfaces smooth over and become, instead, a generalised flowing narrative. They lose the detail they need. Irrelevent episodes are discarded. Banal observations drop away. The documentation of particular, minute occurrances becomes obselete.
And then, worst of all, the joy ebbs out of the writing. That’s when it becomes a chore, and instead of a wandering, blissfully ignorant beginner with a wicked turn of phrase and a keen eye for grammar, I become an indentured journalist with a day job. Ugh.
So what’s the solution? I hate to admit it, but I think it might be … discipline.
Yep. Almost a month has passed. A terrific start has been made. But I can hear Estelle’s voice in my head right now: “Come on now. No excuses! You’ve got everything going for you, Lucas. No rest for the wicked!”
The solution? I think it’s this: to wake up earlier and write first thing every morning, without fail. To not compromise on this one appointment. Could it be that simple?