Groan. Not again.
Yep, boys and girls, I’m starting to feel sick again. I’ve had it with this stupid body o’ mine. Just when it seems to be getting better, I have a downhill slide back into yuck. And it’s got nothing to do with going back to work next week; in actual fact, even though part of me doesn’t want to leave here, I haven’t been at work for so long that I’m keen to catch up with what’s happening (not sure how long that keenness will last once I’m back!).
I’ll be seeing the doctor when I get home on Monday, so I guess it looks like I’ll probably have to get something done about my gallbladder sooner rather than later. But let’s not talk about that. Boring stuff that occupied this blog for far too long and no doubt when I actually have the operation I’ll bore you with details about that. Something to look forward to!
Back to Varuna.
Because of feeling sick, the writing has been in fits and starts. I have continued with my effective method of writing in a cafe in the morning and then transcribing and expanding on it in the afternoon. Though today I spent most of the afternoon drifting in and out of uncomfortable sleep. But I did write what I thought was an excellent fight scene; it was very cathartic to write my two main characters screaming at each other in the middle of the street. It’s also starting to feel really grounded in terms of location, and describing both Singapore and Sydney has been fun. Initially I was afraid of being a bit too specific, but I realised how much I love reading books that are set in places that I know, and seeing that location through the eyes of a writer, so I thought why not do it myself?
I’ve been cutting and pasting the main beast of the book as well, although it’s really not very long at this stage. Even if I fill in all the blanks, I don’t think it’s going to be a terribly long book, although I may surprise myself. That’s okay, it’s the quality that matters, right? Every word, hand picked and hand crafted! A superior product of unparalleled excellence.
If only I could tell you what it’s about.
It’s turning into a story about relationships and friendships, set on a backdrop of two colliding cultures and exploring the space between them … yes, sounds like I plucked that last bit right out of literary theory, can you tell? Re-reading the original thesis draft of the story, I realised I was in danger of falling into the trap I was so critical of – namely, fetishising and isolating the whole idea of cultural identity. So I’ve had to revisit what I really wanted to do with the piece, before I got constrained by all the MA requirements.
What I had wanted to explore and describe was the way cultural identity can’t be viewed as static, as a museum piece. It’s messy, it’s ordinary, it’s just everyday life. What someone thinks is exotic could be dull as dishwater to the person living it. The other side of that is that the cultural heritage someone takes for granted and, in fact, may even scorn, is still of some value and has its roots deep in the identity of that individual, even if they choose not to recognise it. But as I’ve been working on it here, I’ve also been developing the relationships between characters and as such they now have much more satisfying story arcs, where the cultural identity bits are part of the fabric, but not beacons that make you think I’m a one-issue candidate.
As an aside, the key terms I explored in the essay part of my thesis to describe all this were ‘ambivalence’ and ‘complicated entanglements’. The writing of Ien Ang was particularly helpful to me here, especially her book On Not Speaking Chinese, which is a great read, even if you’re not into academic writing (for one thing, she doesn’t take herself too seriously, which is refreshing).
So yeah, anyway, back to the non-academic real world. The point of all this is I need to a) finish writing the damn book, and b) find a palatable, sound-bite-esque way of describing it so that when swanning around with a glass of champagne in my hand I’ll be able to be confident and witty and have people fighting to publish me.
Dahlings! Any ideas welcome! I’ll save you a glass of champagne.