Richard Pierce

Life, Writing

Day 11

So we move onto the point where I decide to use numbers rather than words for the days. The house style of a company I used to work for dictated that we should use words for numbers up to ten, and after that it had to be numbers. I guess it stuck (and I started that job when I was 24 or 25).  And this is relevant.

At the beginning of 2020, I decided I ought to try to keep a journal. There are so many things in my life that I’ve forgotten over the course of time that I thought keeping journal would help me remember them. I kept it up for about a week, maximum. It seemed to distract me from actually writing, from turning a day’s or a week’s events into poetry, stripped me of the imagination I needed to write fiction, made me dull and predictable. I ate this, I did that, I felt that, worried about this and that, went to bed at this time etc etc. And everything seemed to be at a distance from me, like I was actually transcribing someone else’s life, not making notes on my own. That’s why I gave up, because it felt like a drain on my creativity, because it seemed to be turning me into a stranger to myself.

For the last few days I’ve felt a bit like that with these brief notes on my life here. I’ve not gone back to the more serious writing I mentioned yesterday, haven’t felt the impulse from these little exercises to move on with The Mortality Code. In fact, on some days, this has felt like an unpleasant task to be completed rather than something to be relished as a kickstart back into creativity. Something the dutiful me has to complete. And sometimes it’s frazzled me because I’ve seen the hours count down to midnight on all the clocks in the house and office and thought I would run out of time. Not really very healthy.

This is where the top paragraph becomes relevant. That job I had, it was all about writing abstracts/summaries from longer pieces of news so that facts and figures could be compressed into quickly readable and assimilated knowledge for those who bought into the database of abstracts we were producing. There had to be a house style so people became familiar with what we were doing, how we presented information and knowledge, to speed up their acquisition of the knowledge we were selling them. When I’d worked my way up to being slightly more senior than others, one of my colleagues came to me one day and asked me why we were bastardising English in this way, why we couldn’t just have free reign over how we wrote pieces. I told him we weren’t bastardising English, but that we were finding a different way of using it, that this occupation was giving us an alternative way to harness language, and that, in the long run, it would stand us in good stead because we had more than one way in which we could express ourselves. It was like a lightbulb went on over his head (and he went on to become something quite big at the FT, I think).

That’s what I thought of today when I was getting a bit weary and contemplating stopping this before I even got to the magic 21 days when it would become muscle and mind memory. That I’ve been looking at it the wrong way these past eleven days, that trying to put this game of words on the same level as writing fiction or poetry is the wrong way to approach it; that this actually is just a different way of using the language I use to express myself. That what and how I write here is in no way the same as writing a story, as making things up. And the other realisation is this – I should be writing these blogs in the mornings not the evenings. In the evenings, these notes just become brain dumps that signal the close of the day. In the morning, they do become a kick starter for my brain, a warm-up exercise to make me think about words all day rather than going to bed with some thoughts simmering in my head that will get forgotten before I remember them.

This is writing, but just not as I know it. As in all things, I persevere, and just work out better and different ways of doing them. That’s what I’ve always done.

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