Working on two very different projects, writing and sculpture, it’s occurred to me how similar the process actually is – at least for me. Both involve a significant amount of procrastination followed by some very happy productivity.
The sculpture was only delayed for four years, which is pretty good for me. When I lived at 1A Hoo Cottage I carved a squirrel/house number for my driveway. When I moved to number 10 in Seaton I had a stone wall built and specified a plinth-like gate post for the adapted squirrel. It wouldn’t take me a moment, I thought, to change the A to an 0. The squirrel stood outside my office window on my stone-carving bench under a tarpaulin. And I did nothing. Each summer I removed the tarpaulin so I could see it every day – and still did nothing. What was revealed was that the squirrel, which I thought was finished and beautiful, was not right. Its eyes lacked prominence and the tail was too bushy, even for a grey. So although the basic shape was correct the detail wasn’t.
I can only carve outside, in fine weather, but suitable days passed and no carving. There was always something more urgently needing my attention in the garden. But I’ve learned that it’s no good planning for a long-neglected task, the enthusiasm to do it has to ambush me so that suddenly there is nothing else I want to do more. So it was with the squirrel, which is now mounted on my wall end. On a fine autumn day I found myself getting out my chisels and rasp and working with enthusiasm over the next few days until I was happy with the result.
Revising Connemara Mollie and now Dingle Peggy has taken me 27 years, but the insidious process has been the same though I had more excuses. First I lost the manuscript, and when I was reunited with it and read it through I realised that, like the squirrel, although the shape was OK it was unfinished. It needed a thorough revision. Then the thought of retyping the original pencil manuscript put me off for a decade or two. So I paid someone to do it for me. No more excuses, but I manufactured them until the ambush came and I started the revising Peggy at the beginning of this month. At first sluggishly, with no inner feeling of creativity, but as the effect that I wanted emerged from the page I’ve worked with increased enthusiasm and now it’s all I want to do each day.
So just like the squirrel, I’m cutting away all the unnecessary stuff and working on the detail. I hope I’ll end up with the Real Thing. It’s the same creative process.