Johannes Gutenberg's great innovation was to combine the Chinese innovation block printing with typography, the art and technique of arranging type movably. Movable type freed the written word from the drudgery of hand-scribing and allowed it to take flight in printed texts.
There is something magical about a bound volume of printed text. I can never forget the moment I first saw a novel that I had written that had arrived from the printers. I put it on the table and I looked at it, I lowered my eyes to its level, I sniffed it, I opened it, I walked and circled it. I simply couldn't believe that something I had written could end up as that magical thing, bound printed text. A book.
Printing would, after Gutenberg, unleash knowledge and new ways of thinking that would change everything.
-Stephen Fry, Fry's Planet Word, 4. Spreading the Word, BBC
Oh to have a novel I have written, but as I slide inexorably towards the self-imposed October deadline I prepare to meet abject failure face first, headlong, man to man, head to head, face to face, man to face and head to man. Crumbs, scraps, thoughts and ideas does not a story make, and graft, slavish adherence to ritual and routine, essential as they are, are just things that don't come naturally to me. I have to work hard to work hard. Working hard... I was too lazy to study for GCSEs, too lazy to choose a decent higher education subject, oh self pity. What a load of bollocks, Kevin, get over yourself. I'm just hungry and become an arsehole when my stomach is empty.
It's actually not nearly as bad as that previous paragraph would have you believe, but I had to get it out of my system. There is a lot of self-doubt in the atmosphere; I think that's a good thing for an artist. It stops you turning into Tom Cruise or Simon Cowell. The main problems I am facing in this project are simply finding an allotted slot, a daily spot in which I have no distractions or responsibilities other than just writing. An hour or two. In episode 5 of Fry's Planet Word he quotes an anecdote about James Joyce. Joyce is looking pleased with himself and a friend assumes the writing must be going well: have you written a chapter today, no, well a few pages, no, a paragraph? No; a sentence? No, replies Joyce, I wrote the sentence yesterday; today I put it in the right order. A lovely anecdote that says a lot about the artistic process, the attitude of Joyce, and the high quality of his work. I'm just guessing Joyce was relatively untroubled by deadlines, self-imposed or otherwise.
In one day from now November will earn its place on the wall, as the calender page turns and National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) commences. This is a month for hammering out words like they are going out of fashion (where cliches are ok because the focus is on completing sentence after sentence), until 50,000 words minimum have been completed. Then one can worry about the details. Picking the good bits, finding the loose ends, researching what goes in all the TKs*; in other words, turning 50,000 words of furious bullshit into half a half-decent novel.
I think I'm at a stage where I'm going to have to print out the bits I have, double line-spaced, spread them everywhere... attack them with a red pen, a black pen, a pair of scissors and a roll of sellotape (other brands are available). But .... that's what I should be doing after November. I'm very confused... as Captain Beefheart apparently liked to say, you've had too much to think....
* TK is useful shorthand meaning insert fact later. Use it so as not to interrupt the creative flow. It stops you disappearing into dictionaries, encyclopedias, reference books or the Internet every time you can't think of a detail, fact or word.