What I think about when I think about writing?
I think too much.
This came after reading Haruki Murakami’s What I Think about When I Think about Running. He took the title of his book from Raymond Carver’s What We Talk about When We Talk about Love.
Which led me to thinking about what influences writers.
When reading a particular writer whose works I enjoy, I like to know who they read, who has influenced them, who they admire, who inspires them. These paths broaden my own reading and influences. Often these paths lead back to the same names. For example, two of my favourite authors are Toni Morrison and Mario Vargas Llosa, who both cite William Faulkner’s writing as an influence, and Faulkner has cited James Joyce.
I love Faulkner’s work, but I struggle with Joyce.
It is sort of like a writer’s whakapapa, tracing the roots of their writing.
My own writing seems so out of touch. There is no harmony; the words don’t match; the sentences are ambiguous; the plot is confusing; the characters are shallow. Why do I bother? I am feeling a bit of a fraud. It’s not easy. And I have to write a journal and expose my phoniness. It’s scary.
My son calls. ‘It’s just a story, Mum. Come for lunch.’
Back home, I sit at the computer and open my story. I am almost through another draft, changing from past to present tense. It seems to read better. It is time-consuming. I am also trying to find the answers to questions Reina has raised regarding the storyline and characters.
Question: What do my characters think about when they think about whānau?
On Monday, I get an email from my five-year-old grandson in Invercargill: ‘Did you feel the earthquake, it was scary. Can you send my new fleece jacket before the summer weather.’
Novel excerpt: interaction between main character, Beth, and her father, Mikey, after period of estrangement.
‘I don’t suppose you’d be able to put in a word for him.’ They had the same eyes, father and son. Her eyes. ‘He’s had a bit of trouble, before he came down here. But you know him; he’s not a bad boy.’ Then added, ‘He’s whānau, Beth, talk to him.’
That was strange coming from him now.
‘He won’t be going home tonight. Court in the morning, and he may not get bail then either.’
‘Let him know I was here, that’s all.’
Despite the trouble MJ caused, Mikey loves him, wants to help, wants to be seen as a father. But she needs him too, she is the firstborn, she is the good guy, isn’t she?
‘You all right, Beth?’ He leans forward and his voice drops. ‘I mean, this Kevin. He been giving you a rough time?’
This time he is looking at her hard. What does he mean? Screwing around, giving her the bash? like MJ. And what was he going to do about it if she wasn’t all right. ‘I’m fine,’ she says.
‘Ria will want to see you. How long you down for?’ He leans back from the table.
‘I’ll call. Hard to plan anything at present with all the different shifts.’
Outside the café they stand with their hands in their pockets. She yields first, moves forward to kiss his cheek, misses and her lips met the collar of his fleece lined jacket. He settles a hand on her shoulder.
‘Whānau, Beth, remember. He’d like to see you.’