Monday, June 02, 2014

In Praise of Idleness — maybe.

I hope that, even as you read this, I shall be lolling in a lounger in the garden of a cottage in what the French call La France Profonde, a glass of chilled white wine at my elbow and in my hand one of the books I have been longing to read all year and didn't want to spoil by splitting it up into the small sections that are all I usually manage at a time when I'm at home.

This year the list is headed by Empress Dowager Cixi by Jung Chang, the author of Wild Swans. Cixi was a remarkable woman, a concubine who became ruler of China as the 'power behind the throne' to the poor little boy who was the last emperor.  I'm specially interested because I've been to the Forbidden City and seen the yellow silk curtain that concealed her as she sat, quite literally, behind the throne telling him what to say – giving rise to the expression.

On past holidays I have regularly got up at about six to work before breakfast, though I'm not sure I will this time – after a week with three small grandchildren I may need a week to recover.

I think it might even be a good idea to get away from the work in progress completely. Putting it aside takes up time because when I come back to it I always feel I have to read a lot of what I've written already to get myself back into the mindset, but it might be time well spent if it gives me a freshly analytical eye to see where I've padded it and where I've deviated from my rule that every scene must advance the plot.

It's also a good way to pinpoint where I haven't been clear. If I read a page and then have to stop and reread to understand what's going on, it's red pencil time.

Yes, on the whole I think it's worth setting it aside just for two weeks – even if you might cynically suspect this is just me trying to disguise sheer laziness as virtue.

But who am I kidding? Even if I don't write, I can't help but think: how is this bit going to develop; perhaps changing that would be a good idea. And before I know it, I'll be out there on to the terrasse at six o'clock, sneakily getting the new idea worked out on the laptop.Anyway, with the sun just coming up and the birds singing and rural France before me, what's not to like?

Mind you, it'll probably rain.

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