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Thursday, January 31, 2008

 

New month's eve

... all right, this is not quite seasonally correct, but it's still technically January, which counts as the New Year because I said so. And I came across a really nice rendition of a favourite song of mine on YouTube, 'What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?' It's an amateur performance, really nicely done, very wistful and musical. Go check it out.

This version is nice too.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

 

Meet the new cat

Those of you who aren't interested in cats can skip this post, but for those of you who are, here she is:



(The bald patch is from being spayed, not a permanent feature; the vet swears she was up to mischief two hours after surgery, bless her.)

After much discussion, we have decided on the name Mika. The internet informs me that Mika means 'beautiful smell'. While I wouldn't swear that this was a literal description - mostly she smells like cat, and it took me a couple of days to persuade her that the litter tray is where all the cool kids pee - I look at it like this: cats are very smell-oriented, and if a cat could choose a name, it would probably choose one that means 'lovely smelling'. It seems like a name she might pick for herself. Anyway, she looks like a Mika.

And she's adorable. Her main activities involve: fighting a running battle with my pot plants, mad dashes, purring, pouncing on a toy named Mr Prey, cuddling up on laps or nearby anybody sitting down and purring some more, climbing my legs, and, on one occasion, taking a flying leap into the toilet, an incident I still get heartache when I think about. (I have now learned to put the seat down, and fortunately she has a forgiving disposition.) My boyfriend, worryingly, is proving slightly and intermittently allergic to her, but he swears that it's not bad and he'd rather have sneezing and Mika than no sneezing and no Mika, which I think stands as a testimony to how lovable she is; fingers crossed on that score.

She purrs so much, in fact, that I'm starting to feel slightly haunted. Whenever I'm not sure where she is, I call 'Mika!' and listen out - and a lot of the time, I'm half-convinced I can hear a purr. Sometimes I can; sometimes it's a passing airplane, or the boiler, or a washing machine... I now have the perpetual sense that I can hear purring. It would be spooky, if it wasn't so cute.

Anyway, I have little else to say right now, as I've been spending much of my time settling her down. As she now seems capable of exploring the house without panicking, I'm looking forward to getting back to work. But still, she's so sweet...

Friday, January 25, 2008

 

The tricky business of defining national insults

In the same way that Yiddish has many words for clumsy or stupid people, English - English-English, rather than American-English - provides us with a charmingly broad and subtly-shaded range of insults for people who are tiresomely incompetent and lacking in self-awareness. The distinctions can be hard to draw, but I'm going to have a go, just for fun.

Wanker
A very important word. 'Wank' meaning masturbate, the basic inference is obvious, but 'wanker' suggests more dislike than most of its equivalents. A wanker is someone who thinks he's coming across well, and actually is coming across badly; it can also imply that he is untrustworthy, needlessly unpleasant and/or arrogant. A wanker isn't inherently aggressive, like a jerk, though he might act that way on occasion; when he offends people, it's more because he's self-absorbed and/or selfish. Unlike a jerk, he isn't purposefully mean. That would imply being interested in people other than as an audience, or a source of whatever else he needs, which a wanker usually isn't. A wanker is also someone full of himself, or pretentious. Generally, a wanker is insensitive to social nuance and has too high an opinion of his own charm, skill, intelligence, wit, strength or worth.

'Wanker' is a flexible word, and in the right circumstances could fill in for almost any other insult, but the basic meaning is of someone who never realises how bad he looks, because he is, as it were, only in dialogue with himself.

Tosser
A slightly softer insult than 'wanker', though the meaning is basically the same. A tosser is silly rather than nasty; someone either hopelessly incompetent or hopelessly pretentious.

Plonker
Again, same basic definition, but a plonker is just incompetent. Can be used with amiable contempt, but a plonker is somebody no one thinks well of; a clown that you might laugh at but wouldn't laugh with.

Berk
From Cockney rhyming slang, 'Berkley Hunt', 'berk' is less obscene than its etymology suggests. A berk is more or less a fool, someone with no sense who's an awkward blot on the social landscape.

Prat
Meaning 'backside', as in 'pratfall', a prat is a fool as well, but a more transitory state; you can, for instance, make a prat of yourself, or act like a prat, without being a prat full-time. A prat is someone who ought to be very embarrassed about how stupid he's being. Whether or not he actually will be embarrassed depends on whether he's acting like a prat, or just is a prat.

Mug
A mug is someone stupid enough to be taken advantage of; the word can apply to either gender. Not quite the same thing as a mark or a gull; a mug would make an easy mark or be easy to gull, but it's more a general trait than the result of any single situation. A mug can garner sympathy because they're so put-upon, as in the case of someone whose family always unloads the hard work onto him or her; you don't exactly respect a mug, but you can like and pity one. Referring to oneself as 'muggins' when complaining about having to do all the hard work is an offshoot of this, as in, 'You guys were all out partying while muggins here had to clean up before the landlord came!'

Git
A nasty person that nobody likes. 'Git' is generally not a name you would call someone directly without adding an adjective - 'You git!' isn't something you usually hear; more common is 'You stupid git!' or 'You lying git!'. When addressing the git directly, the word is a kind of participle noun, used to add a load of disapproval to the more specific descriptive phrase. When referring to the git in the third person, it can be a more general term of disapproval, as in 'That git over there just called me a wanker!'

Tit
A tit is generally somebody who's made a fool of themselves, as in 'I felt a right tit' or 'Look at him, hopping around like a tit'. It's much easier to be like a tit than to be a tit; to be a full-time tit, you have to make an idiot of yourself pretty consistently.

Toe rag
A cheating, disreputable scumbag of no trustworthiness, character or virtue whatsoever. A toe rag is someone who betrays his friends.

Dickhead
Pronounced 'dick-ed', even in an educated accent, a dickhead is an idiot who's either pointlessly disagreeable or has amazingly bad judgement. A dickhead is the kind of person who picks a fight with you for no reason.

Muppet
A muppet is someone who's made a mistake or done a bad job. It can be used affectionately, as in 'You left your coat behind, you muppet!'; it can also be used to criticise someone's abilities, as in 'I don't know what muppet built this for you, but I'm gonna have to charge you six hundred quid to fix it.'

Pillock
Someone of limited intelligence. 'Pillock' also carries the implication of helplessness: you wouldn't expect a pillock to stand up for himself very well.

Wally
An unsalvageably foolish person who's foolish all the time. 'Wally' is a fairly affectionate or soft term of abuse, but implies an outstanding lack of common sense. A famous example is the Sun newspaper, in an article about Prince Philip making some alarmingly racist jokes in China, calling him 'The Great Wally Of China'.


It strikes me that a key element of English insults is the idea of self-awareness: a great many of the insults denote someone who, were he aware how he was coming across, wouldn't be acting so stupidly.

The kind of insults a nation creates are an unusual insight into its general character: you wouldn't bother to invent an insult for something that nobody does or nobody minds. Whether this means that, say, England has more wankers and America has more jerks, or that England notices wankers more and America notices jerks more, I couldn't really say. (As an interesting side-note, many English people feel that 'arsehole' is a stronger insult than 'asshole', even though the only real difference is in pronunciation. Curious, huh?)

It would be interesting to hear opinions. Does anyone have a useful national insult? Or a speculation as to why insults seem to cluster around key concepts? Does your culture have insults that seem particularly specific to it?

Monday, January 21, 2008

 

The Well Said Fallacy

For those of you who read the Slacktivist discussion threads, this is a post based on a thought that occurred to me there.

I've previously talked in my Lexicon about the Well Said Fallacy, defined thus:

The automatic assumption that something is well executed because you agree with its morals or message. The cry of 'well said!' is fine to praise someone for saying something that needed saying, but should never be confused with 'well put'.

It's one that most people commit at some point, and I'm wondering why it's so effective.

I think it comes down to something fundamental: poetic truth. Beauty is truth, truth beauty - or at least, both are convincing. The 'halo effect' in psychology is the effect by which perceived positive qualities in one area make people likely to attribute positive qualities in others, as, for instance, 'This person is beautiful, so they are also nice', or 'This person is affable, so they are also intelligent'. Thus, if you like a book's message, you are more likely to give it a higher rating in other areas, such as writing style and plotting.

But, more than that, art makes you see the world through the author's eyes. Now, there are two ways this can go. Either the art is so perfect that, having seen it, you look at the world anew. You walk down a street with a golden sunset and say to yourself, 'Wow, Turner was right!'; you meet a type of person who reasons just like Brutus and say to yourself, 'Wow, Shakespeare was right!'. Even if you didn't know it before, you know it now: this is a new truth, and the perceptiveness and beauty of the artist's rendering draws you into enlightened, startled agreement with them.

That's the really great way. But there's also a shortcut. Rather than presenting new truths and convincing people of them, you present them old 'truths' of which they're already convinced. These might not necessarily be profound insights; they can vary to common-sense unarguability to deep, wild prejudice: the point is, you're preaching to the converted. You're telling people something, and they hear it and think, 'Yes, that's true'.

And because the sensation of encountering truth is similar whether it's a new truth or an old one, you can mistake something predictable for something profound. A preacher who changes an unbeliever to one of the faithful by the power of his rhetoric is a fine evangelist; a preacher addressing a believer needs far less passion and talent to get the same effect. And what can happen is simply this: a believer effectively attributes to their local vicar the same rhetorical talent as a John Donne, because they feel something similar - in terms of world-view, if not artistry - when they listen to both. 'Spiritual' can refer both to beliefs and to the arts, and it's possible to get confused.

In most of its forms, the Well Said Fallacy is fairly benign. Most people will read a medium-good book that they agree with and put down a medium-good one when they disagree, in the same way that a nice, sincere, ordinary vicar will be listened to by a Christian flock who wouldn't listen to the nice, sincere, ordinary mullah down the road, any more than the mullah's flock would listen to the vicar. It doesn't mean either of them is a bad minister; they simply are working with what they have, and what they have is only going to appeal to a limited group. Within that group, they can do a lot of good, of course, in the same way that a medium-good book can give a lot of pleasure to people who agree with its principles.

It's when the Fallacy goes too far that it becomes tiresome to non-believers. The local vicar, nice man though he may be, is probably no John Donne, and it can be rather irritating to be given an outraged stare if you don't enthuse about his sermon enough. But when it comes to art, message and medium are almost always harder to separate. Novels are fictional, and very few of them are didactic. They have a worldview, but some people won't even agree that all books have some kind of moral standpoint. Many a person arguing that they don't like the principles of a particular work of fiction gets a lot of hecklers crying, 'It's just a story!'. As a result, you can dislike a particular work for its worldview, and find yourself in disagreement with someone who shares its worldview on so profound a level that they're barely conscious of it, who can't understand why you're being so churlish. I've seen online articles, for instance, arguing that Disney's The Lion King has an authoritarian worldview - an opinion I personally agree with, but alas I can't find the article I'm remembering - who were greeted with furious posts reading, basically, 'Get a life you sad little person ITS JUST A STORY'. Of course, ill-mannered miscreants abound on the Web, but the basic argument is there: it's fictional, it doesn't have a worldview that I've noticed (because its view of the world seems to me, personally, to be true and reasonable), so you have no business disliking it.

Because, awkwardly, if you don't happen to agree with a work of art's worldview, you will find it hard to like. You may get in to an anti-Well Said Fallacy, where you dislike its message so much it's hard to see its virtues - but on the other hand, everyone agrees that Triumph of the Will is a great piece of film-making, Nazi propaganda or not. What I suspect is that without the Fallacy working upon you, the work's flaws start to glare. These can be flaws in worldview - sometimes you just can't swallow that the world is really like that - but they can also be flaws in execution that the artist's unexamined assumptions led them to be lazy about. To use The Lion King as an example, young Simba's arrogant desire for kingship isn't really very different from Scar's, except for the fact that Simba's entitled and Scar isn't. If you agree that authority is authority and that you should obey those above you, that's fine: Scar is bad because he's rebelling against the status quo. If you don't, though, it looks like a flaw in characterisation: Simba has not been made likeable enough to get away with that kind of talk. The character is considered entitled to certain latitudes, and so doesn't have to earn them. Dirty Harry works as a hero despite torturing suspects because he's clearly meant to be a flawed character and the film allows you the freedom to judge him; the film's artistry earns the character a certain latitude, fictionally if not morally. Harry's many imitators, produced by artists who really do believe that a square-jawed cop's gotta do, and clean up the scum, and all that paranoid, authoritarian rubbish, produce cops who are simply unconvincing to many viewers because they act like bastards without any authorial perspective or proper justification. The list goes on; I'm picking authoritarian examples because I happen not to like authoritarianism, but I'm sure everyon can produce their own list, in accordance with their worldview.

Outstanding artists, and indeed spiritual teachers, can overcome specifics in many cases. But artists who aren't quite that good are always going to get a more tolerant reception when preaching to the choir. Once an artist makes an assumption without properly thinking it through, they get careless and slip up; flawed writing is the result. When that happens, the Well Said Fallacy can plug the gap in some cases - but not with everyone.

Friday, January 18, 2008

 

Behold: my new best friend!



This little gold-and-white purrer is shortly to be coming home with us, as soon as she gets out of treatment. (Cat flu, rescue, sad start in life, none of which appears to have affected her sunny disposition.)

Today, nothing can bother me, because I will shortly have a cat.

I'm thinking of calling her Molly. Or possibly Polly. What would you call a cat?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

 

Dead lambs

My good friend Claire has introduced me to an interesting concept:

In the James Herriot books, one of the recurring jobs he's called to perform as a country vet is delivering lambs. In crisis births, sometimes one lamb can die in utero, generally the lamb that's stuck halfway born. When that happens, a vet has to extract the dead lamb as gentle as possible, because until that lamb comes out, the live ones can't be born.

Some ideas can be like that. You have them in your head for ages, not quite getting them down, not quite working them out, but they've been there for so long that you can't quite lose the idea that they ought to be ideas you can use. Even if they're not completely workable, and quite possibly never were, or never will be because the moment to write them has passed. As long as they're in there, they may be taking up space and energy you need to create new stories.

Those are dead lambs, blocking the delivery of live ones.

How to deal with them? One way, if you can find a gentle enough vet, is to tell them; get them out in the open, so that your subconscious has some sense of having finished them, even if it's finished them in a conversation. (The subconscious does sometimes think telling a story in a conversation counts as finishing it, which is why it's not always a good idea to tell stories before you've written them.) Another way is simply to decide against them; consider them finished, deliver them yourself and acknowledge them dead. Other people may have other methods; I'd be interested to hear.

The main thing to remember is this: they're not the only lambs you'll ever have. The sheep remains fertile. If you can have one idea, you can have others, better ones. The really bad thing is if you continue to pound at them, trying to revive them, rather than turning your attention to ideas that might actually benefit from your care. Have faith in your future ideas; there's always more ideas where the first ones came from.

Monday, January 14, 2008

 

Count 'em

Here's a question I bet you can't answer off the top of your head:

How many teeth do you have?

It struck me this morning that while I've had the same number of teeth for more than half of my life, and I know how many extractions I've had as well - two to make space prior to wearing a brace, horrible thing, and one crooked wisdom tooth - and I still couldn't say off-hand how many were left over. (Twenty-seven, since you ask.) It seems like the sort of thing one should know.

Can anyone here say how many teeth they have without checking?

Friday, January 11, 2008

 

Busywork

You know what's a good procrastination when you're supposed to be writing?

Cleaning.

There are several reasons why this is a pernicious distraction:

1. It makes you feel like a good person, especially if you don't live alone. Rather than being selfish, you're doing something that everybody will benefit from. They'll appreciate you. They'll think you're great. They might appreciate you if you wrote as well, of course, but that would involve writing.

2. You have to clean sometime. If you never clean, you turn into one of those weirdos who stockpiles newspaper and never takes a bath, and you don't want to be one of those weirdos. Cleaning is necessary. There's no sense putting it off. You can start writing a bit later, but you really do have to clean sometime.

3. You'll only worry about doing it if you don't do it now. You don't want to write when you've got cleaning on your mind, do you?

4. Like writing, cleaning makes the world a more beautiful place. And, in the artistic reaches of your soul, you really do what that, don't you?

5. It's much easier to write in a pleasant environment. You don't want to be dirty and uncomfortable, do you? No, of course you don't. It would distract you. You'd feel unsafe and find it hard to concentrate, and you can't write unless you concentrate. Which you can't, if you're worried about cleaning. So go and clean. It'll make it much easier to write. Really.

Those are my excuses, anyway; I'm sure other people will have others, or, indeed, other procrastinations, which I'd be interested to hear about. The real reason, of course, is that you're putting off writing, and cleaning is a good excuse. In a chapter of The Feminine Mystique entitled 'Housewifery Expands to Fill the Time Available', Betty Friedan remarks:

I ... discovered that many frantically busy housewives were amazed to find that they could polish of in one hour the housework that used to take them six - or was still undone at dinnertime - as soon as they started studying, or working, or had some other serious interest outside the house.

She posits:

1. The more a woman is deprived of function in society at the level of her own ability, the more her housework, mother-work, wife-work, will expand - and the more she will resist finishing her housework or mother-work, and being without any function at all. (Evidently human nature also abhors a vacuum, even in women.)

2. The time required to do the housework for any given woman varies inversely with the challenge of the other work to which she is committed.


Calling this 'busywork', she points to 'A series of intensive studies sponsored by the Michigan Heart Association at Wayne University [that] disclosed that "women were working more than twice as hard as they should", squandering energy trhough habit and tradition in wasted motion and unneeded steps.'

Friedan considers this the defence mechanism of people taking refuge from the responsibility to decide on an adult identity and commit to self-development. All of this sounds pretty dire - and I hasten to add that all I personally did this week was have an unproductive day because the bathtub really did need cleaning, and there were some errands to run - but the lady's got a point. If you're putting off something important that takes commitment and self-knowledge, mentally untaxing, fundamentally necessary stuff like cleaning is a terrific excuse.

So next time you reach for a mop when you should be writing, maybe ask yourself is the floor really as unbearable as all that? I decided to leave the mess alone today, and it's been my most productive day all week.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

 

Darn it

My central heating system in on the blink, and keeps breaking. The boiler replacement company can't come until January 22nd, what with it being the busy time and all.

I'm ****ing freezing.

This is where I want to be.

This is where I am.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

 

Secondbookitis

I have, as those of you who are old lags of this site will doubtless be aware, recently completed a first draft of Book 2. Without going into details, I can say, from the bottom of my knackered heart, that it was much harder to write than Book 1.

This is proverbially true for many writers - in fact, many's the person who got a pained look from me by saying amiably 'Ah yes, the second book's always the hardest to write, isn't it?'. (Yes it is, but it's not always tactful to remind a writer of that fact while they're in the throes. It's like telling somebody they look unwell; it never makes them feel better.) So, why is this? What are the causes of secondbookitis?

The primary principle is simple. The best thing in the world, in terms of creating work, is having a relaxed mind. Space to turn ideas over, willingness to play and experiment, unselfconsciousness that allows you to try something that might or might not work: these are things that let your mind expand and produce your best work, because nothing is blocking your flow.

But having written a first book, those things can be hard to come by.

First, you have something to lose. If you're just starting out, you can make mistakes; that's to be expected. Most writers shelve early work, and if there's nobody's eye on them, it hardly matters. You have to put away six months' work? Never mind; you weren't working on a deadline. If, however, you are working on a deadline, suddenly the pressure increases. Working as an amateur, it hardly matters if you waste a week on an experiment that didn't pan out and have to scrap it, but as a professional, that's a week closer to your deadline. And the deadline means external forces, professionals you desperately want to impress. Making a fool of yourself when no one's watching is fun; making a fool of yourself in front of the publishing industry is a horrifying thought. We're all happy to dance around singing into the hairbrush when we've got the house to ourselves, but imagine doing that while Simon Cowell is watching you, and you've got some idea of the havoc publication can wreak with a writer's sense of security.

(I hasten to add that my publishers in no way resemble Simon Cowell, or at least, Simon Cowell's screen persona, as he may be a gentle and sweet man in private life. It's just that tension can magnify even the loveliest publishers in the world into Cowell-like dimensions if you let it.)

In short, the Big Chance factor kicks in, in a rather nasty way. If you're still unpublished, your big chance is, you hope, yet to come; time is flexible. If you've been published, this is it, your big chance, here and now, and if you make a fool of yourself, you think, you're going to blow it.

Fear of repeating yourself can be inhibiting. There's nothing wrong with writers who hit a winning formula and produce a lifetime of books varying that theme, and in fact, a lot of inventiveness can be manifested within a narrow spectrum. However, if that's not your ambition, then you can become paranoid. That scene you're working on seems to be going well, but hang on - isn't that a little like a scene in your first book? You're repeating yourself! Cut it, quick, before somebody spots it! And now how should you write it? You don't know, because you've rejected the idea you were most comfortable with. Resolving to write non-repetitive work is working according to a negative rather than a positive plan, and that never, ever helps.

The idea of professionalism is also a killer. I've talked about this before, and I'm repeating some points from it here, but the basic principle is this: the minute somebody starts paying you for your work, the inner demon that hates all things creative has a nice little stick to beat you with. Because, you see, professionals are supposed to be tough. Professionals work regular hours, punch time-clocks, hand over the same number of punnets every day, and never, ever let their personal feelings intrude upon their work. Writing, on the other hand, can be a wayward business. You can keep to regular hours if you have a mind to, but everyone has good and bad days. And your emotions get into it. They have to: a writer out of touch with their emotions is like a footballer out of touch with their legs. This makes you terribly frightened of being vulnerable to them, ruled by them, and you can wind up feeling that you should be able to rise above your emotions. This makes about as much sense as a footballer trying to rise above his legs, and you can just imagine the mess if he tried that; it's the same for writers.

You've also got something to prove. Few people are slow to tell you that second books are traditionally worse than first books. Nobody wants to be that writer, especially if you had only a one-book or two-book contract. So the part of you that hates you is continually comparing your second book to your first. This is bad news: it can make your first book swell in your mind until it becomes the proper book, the real book - after all, it's been published! - and the one you're working on now is like the younger sibling of a talented elder, anxiously entering the classroom surrounded by teachers frowning down over their spectacles saying, 'Whitfield junior? Ah yes, you have some big shoes to fill, young lady.' Nobody is at their most charming under such circumstances, and books have to be charming if they want readers to like them: they have to entertain, seduce, persuade. It's hard to be persuasive when you're full of doubts yourself.

And, as I've said before, all of these are new problems. The old problems, you've probably had for years: will I ever get published? Do I have any talent? Will anybody ever like my work, or am I just wasting time fooling around with these artistic pretentions? These are real and serious worries for an aspiring writer, and can crush the life out of many a sensitive beginner; even the most robust beginners stagger under the weight of them. Getting published silences those queries. But, as I've said in another post, your inner demon, the horrible beast inside you that wants to kill every creative hope you ever have, is an endlessly resourceful creature. You have to learn to ignore it, because trying to appease it is like changing your hairstyle because the school bully said it was so last year: it won't make it stop, and you'll be letting someone who doesn't like you dictate your life. But it's far easier to ignore when you've heard it all before.

Get published, and it whips out a whole new agenda, which hits you like measles hitting a remote civilisation: you just don't have any resistance built up, and it takes you a while to rally. The thing is, from an unpublished perspective, published writers look like completely different people. But they're not, really. Your personality doesn't undergo some chemical reaction on contact with a publishing contract: you're exactly who you always were. You're suddenly one of the people you always thought were big and tough, but you're no bigger and tougher than you were yesterday. It's very hard, in such circumstances, not to feel smaller and weaker than you actually are.

So what's to be done about it? What helped me, in the end, was giving up on the idea of being a professional. With Bareback, I wrote the entire book as an amateur, and it sold, and some people liked it. That was all fine. In my own mind, now, I'm still an amateur. The word has a fine origin: it means somebody who performs an activity just for the love of it. I've become, not a professional writer, but an amateur writer who sometimes gets paid. It's a good feeling.

I wonder, does secondbookitis affect people who haven't sold their first book in the same way? Experiences and opinions are welcome.

In any event, I'm still waiting to hear back from my agent and publishers about Book 2; at the moment, they're either still on holiday or wading through the mountain of mail that accumulates during the holidays, so it may be a while before I get an opinion. Writing a second book is an experience that I am so grateful I'll never have to go through again. But having said that, I kind of liked how the book went, in the end, so I'm just going to have to hope for the best.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

 

Sleep disturbance

It's a funny thing, but I get sleep disturbances when I'm writing well.

Towards the end of 2007, I changed my creative routines in a way that turned out to be tremendously effective, and the last two months have been the most productive of my life. But it's had some distinctly odd effects.

The first one, unexpectedly, was nightmares. Twice now I've started up again - once after a long struggle, once after a short break - and found, as I eased back into it, that I was having bizarre nightmares. They were certainly dark and involved some pretty bad things happening, but the really weird thing was their affect: they somehow contrived to be nightmares without actually being distressing.

The second is insomnia. I'm typing this in the middle of the night, unable to sleep, and strangely, I was tired all day. This is only intermittent, but it's definitely not the first time, and I haven't been insomniac for years. Last time it happened, I wrote a thousand words at around midnight. It was useful, but it didn't send me back to sleep; I ended up falling asleep on the sofa at about four in the morning, so I don't think it can have just been deadline anxiety. This post, I'm about to go back, tomorrow, to Book Three, having handed over Book Two to my charming agent (though I think I'll probably end up posting it later, as I might be more asleep than I realise and typing all sorts of rubbish that I should check in the morning).

... It's now the night after I typed the above, and I'm once again up in the small hours, novelling and time-killing away. This is becoming tiresome.

All in all, I'm sleeping funny. It's kind of inconvenient, as I often do my best work in the morning and that doesn't work if I'm tired, but I think I'd better go with it. If there's no apparent reason for it, I'm going to assume there's some unconscious one. The nightmares feel like the sign of an enlivened imagination; the insomnia - well, that's just a nuisance, but at least I sometimes get some writing done.

If I don't get some sensible sleeping in tomorrow night, though, I'm going to have to log a complaint with someone. I'm not quite sure who. The first thing that occurs to me is my spirit rabbit, but that might be sleep deprivation talking. Then again, maybe not. I'll try it and get back to you about whether it works.

Does anyone else get weird sleep patterns?

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