Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Not in the zone

Sport has ruined my writing today. No, not Wimbledon, though I really would like to watch the Murray match later – his comeback on Monday night was the most astonishing thing I’ve ever seen at Wimbledon. No, ultimate frisbee has thrown my writing to the winds today. The Bassist is off to play for the Under 19 Great Britain B-team in the European championships in Slovakia and he was packing this morning.

I was at the dining room table attempting to push forward the literary fronteirs while fending off…
‘Have we got…
‘Do you know where…
‘Are there any clean…
‘I think it might be at Dad’s but…
‘Do you remember that…
And, sometimes, as we all know, it’s just easier to go and find whatever it is than to explain where to find it. Especially to someone who is 16 and has a Y-chromosome.

To be fair to the Bassist, he has only just got back from a week’s work experience at a design company in London where he had a great time, so it feels as if he’s a very busy boy at the minute.

What with that and the Ultimate Frisbee Freak dashing off to Birmingham, Manchester and other places north of the Watford Gap to attend GB training camps in preparation for the UF World Championships in Vancouver at the end of July, it feels like ultimate frisbee is dominating our lives even more than usual at the moment.

So here I am, having seen the Bassist off on a train to London, trying to gather my scattered wits and finish the scene I started yesterday. But wits seem to be all over the place and if rain hadn’t stopped play I’d be watching Roger Federer mince Mario Ancic by now because one thing I've learned in writing is that if it persists in not going well for more than an hour or so, it's time to do something else. My brain needs downtime when it’s scrambled and trying to cudgel it into co-operating a) doesn’t seem to work and b) makes me depressed at my failure to be able to do it.
And it was all going so well yesterday.

Later…
OK, it’s now an hour later and Federer and Ancic are back on centre court. Federer has clearly got my problem – something (in his case having a 2 hour rain break) has totally thrown him out of his rhythm and, after winning the first set 6-1 he just can't seem to get back into his groove. Boris Becker has just remarked that tennis is ‘a mental game’ and whilst it sounds silly, I know what he means – with no team-mates to buoy you up you’ve just got to keep yourself in the zone, believing in yourself, seeing the game going your way inside your head.

Well, writing is the mental game par excellence. Definitely no team mates unless you’re Aliya Whiteley and Neil Ayres or Sean French and Nicky Gerrard. You just have to keep yourself on top of your game and interruptions, particularly if they are long or persistent are ruinous to the trick of being able to stay in your fictional world. And there’s no way you can write convincingly unless you’re there. If you’re on the outside looking in all you’ll ever write is pedestrian reportage.

Ancic has just gone 4-3 ahead in the second set. At this rate I’m not going to see any of the Murray match - book group tonight where we'll be discussing Engleby. I'm confidently predicting an argument as I'm pretty sure at least one of our number will have deeply hated the central character and therefore the book.

Oh well, I shall be earning a crust tomorrow at the day job and then back to work on the wip on Friday. If it goes well until late in the afternoon, maybe I’ll reward myself with a little look at a semi-final.
Then again, maybe not.

6 comments:

KatW said...

Somedays it seems impossible to get in 'the zone'. Everything that is forced out would've been best left unwritten. Those days, I agree, it's better to rest your head. Watch a DVD, paint, visit a scenic place, visit friends, shop..... BUT in my case it's never tennis. Each to their own. After all I am the girl who doesn't mind when the kids watch Hannah Montana & used to be addicted to Buffy(shh - don't tell). LOL

Kat :-)

Tim Stretton said...

I think there are a lot of parallels between writing and individual sports. I've never been a particular tennis fan but the difference between having a good day and a bad day is very rarely a physical thing. I'm more into running, and mental state has a huge impact here.

A writer is able to accept that sometimes you're just having a bad day, and slope off to do something else instead. A tennis player only has 'now': get it wrong, and you're out (with only a £93,750 loser's cheque as compensation in Ancic's case).

David Isaak said...

Not being able to find things is definitely a Y-chromosome matter.

James Thurber said, "I hate women because they always know where things are."

It's actually one of the reasons I like women, but he's certainly right about the second half of the statement,

Alis said...

Hi Kat - you're right, of course, but I've never been very good at letting myself off the 'work' hook and taking those days off - something to do with protestant work ethic I suspect.

Hi Tim - seriously, £93k for losing a quarter final? Yikes!

Hi David - glad you don't resent my gender's tendency to know where things are. But I must confess to being slightly unnerved by your ability to pull an apposite quotation out of the bag at will (or do you just have an excellent dictionary of quotations?!) The Other Half said, gnomically, 'he finds quotations, you find socks' Hmmm...

David Isaak said...

I have a sticky memory for things I've seen written down. The problem with this, of course, is that all sorts of useless crap sticks to it as well.

I'd prefer to know where things are.

KAREN said...

Real life definitely gets in the way sometimes (okay, most of the time!)and makes it harder to get in the 'zone' but maybe it's meant to be that way occasionally. Otherwise, surely our heads would explode?!