On photographs and writing

One of the things one tries to do with words, I think, when writing fiction, is to convey a sense of a world – of many worlds, perhaps – behind the immediate reality, or surface meaning. A gesture towards the immanent rather than the obvious. This is something that distinguishes the great photographs, too, I suspect, from the merely ‘good’ or ‘excellent.’ Easy to say, as a reader or critic; much harder to pull off oneself, of course. And who is to say when one has succeeded? Perhaps this is what drives the ‘inner critic’ that leads some writers, both new and established, to write and rewrite and rewrite again, till every word is burnished. Which is all to the good – except when the pesky voice of the inner critic stands in the way of getting the work done in the first place. Which is one of the writing traps I tend to fall into, at least with fiction: writing

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Old fiction, new bottles

My god, is writing a pain. I mean real writing, like writers do. Like novels and stuff. Frankly I don’t know how they do it. Well, here’s how they do it, so far as I can tell. They write. That’s it. They sit down at the fucking computer, and they write! The only way to do it is to do it. No other way works, apparently. And so – after long dark nights of despair, after fantasies of writing, promises to self about writing, fidgeting and faffing instead of writing, I have (yes, I know) dusted off, metaphorically speaking, the god-damned, hated, shoved-into-a-pile of yellowing printouts, its high-time-you-abandoned-this novel. And made a fresh beginning. It’s one of the things I always promised myself: I will not die before I have published a novel. At this rate I’ll be here till the next millennium. Here – don’t steal this, okay – are the opening pages. The little girl frowns. Cherub lips pursed,

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