Ever since I began this M.A I have fallen into the habit of scanning texts – obsessively flicking pages, scribbling notes – so much so that I often forget the simple joys of slow reading. I have about ten books on the go at the moment. Count them. That’s not a completely uncommon practice for anyone who studies writing, anyone who writes and edits for a living, or is a compulsive bookworm, but this frenzied desire to consume and conquer is frankly what landed me in front of a therapist to begin with.
One of these is Oranges are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson. I feel a little ashamed to be admitting that because it’s a memoir staple – but I’m late to just about every party I’m invited to, so here we are.
“There’s no such thing as autobiography,” Jeanette famously wrote once. “There’s only art and lies.” That line stays with me. I obsess over it as I spend my summer picking through stories – truths, untruths and everything in-between, which is of course what interests me the most. The liminality between what we can and cannot articulate, wrestling with Lejeune’s pact (which is kind of like the picture on the front of a macaroni box: a serving suggestion. In reality, you can cook it any way you want, as long as you don’t serve it up and call it prawn hargow).
That’s a terrible analogy. Also, I’m hungry.
Yesterday we bought ourselves a coffee machine. I asked Stephen if he wanted to wrap it and put it under the tree, so we’d have something to open Christmas morning. He looked at me, kind of mock-appalled, at the thought of not having coffee for the next 9 days. And so we spent a few hours wasting some half-decent Lavazza beans (hey we’re entry-level), adjusting the grind, the tamp, and obsessively watching the pressure rise as if we were checking the temperature of a newborn with a fever. The machine takes 20 minutes to heat up, which is sacrifice I never thought I’d have to make (what do I DO in that time?). Nespresso has ruined me.
But, it made me realise how much I need to learn how to spend my time wisely. Slower coffee, slower reading, slower writing. Slower creating. Which means giving up the habits which sap my time. I’ve already started to back away from social media in preparation of my final trimester. I’m working on learning a new guitar chord, every time I feel the impulse to check something. So far I know six by name, and another four which kind of sound right, but are probably just random string groupings. If I’d not sold my piano in a fit of depression last year, then I could have checked. Mind you, if I hadn’t sold my piano, I wouldn’t be playing anything at all. It would just sit there as a constant reminder of what I gave up.
I guess that’s why I’m writing here too. If I spend 30 minutes writing a blog post, then that’s 30 minutes I’m not around a news feed that screams at me first thing in the morning. It’s probably time to admit that I’m in an abusive relationship with Facebook. It’s a bit of a hard habit to break when no-one is around to stop you.
I had a fridge magnet once that read: ‘What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?’ I was told recently that it was time to deploy some innocence. That I don’t have time to let inadequacy consume me. Maybe it’s not inadequacy. Maybe it’s a fear of naivete. Maybe they’re the same thing.