A very good friend of mine sent me an article ( www.williamlanday.com/ -) the other day about how the novelist Graham Greene wrote exactly 500 words every morning and then stopped for the rest of the day even if that meant finishing in the middle of a sentence.
Wow, I thought, that is an example of having real confidence in your own abilities.
He could do it, I think, because he knew exactly what he was going to write before he picked up that probably very elegant fountain pen. This piece had a photograph of one of his manuscripts which had a remarkably small amount of crossings out. I was impressed.
Greene’s technique reminded me of Alfred Hitchcock who said that he often found it boring when he got onto his film’s location for the shoot because the final cut was already precise in his head.
Far be it for me to compare myself to either of these great masters but I have had reason over the last few days to try and write with my eye on the clock.
I have been writing some new Fibonacci poems after having some success with getting them published in a splendid poetry journal called The Fib Review – www.musepiepress.com/fibreview/ . I have enjoyed the process of having an idea for a poem and then seeing if it would fit into the very precise demands of the Fibonacci style where each line is the sum of the two previous ones.
This period of Fibonacci writing coincided with two other facts:
1) I booked a couple of weeks holiday on a Greek island this summer – the first time since my brain haemorrhage that I have been well enough to go somewhere not a stone’s throw from a neurological ward.
2) The sunshine came out here in my back garden giving me an opportunity to build up some skin resistance to the Greek sun so that, when I get there, I might not look like an obsessive pot-holer who has surfaced in the wrong place.
What has this got to do with Graham Greene, you may well ask?
Well it is all down to word counts and timing.
I am aware of the dangers of too much sun after a lifetime of living with a very pale, Celtic complexion so I know that I can only spend about twenty minutes in the sun before turning over and, after that, it is time to cover up. So, even my basic mental arithmetic told me just how long I had to write if I was going to write a poem on each session in the garden.
Why write in the garden then?
It is a wonderful thing to do after a winter stuck in front of the computer.
So, so far this week, I have done exactly what I planned to do…..my version of would could have been a Graham Greene Fibonacci poem, every day.
There has to be all that tidying up of course…..the re-working of those words which jumped into the piece with too much confidence – the “that” instead of the “this” – but, in essence, those poems got themselves written, lying on a sunbed in the garden and I didn’t get burnt.
I managed it because, in my own minor way, like Messrs. Hitchcock and Greene, I knew exactly what I wanted to say before I started writing. It was a lesson worth learning.
It is no coincidence that Greene and Hitchcock are very high up on my list of heroes. I love their precision and their joy in their own constructions.