Ahem, no, this isn’t a review of Nostromo. Although it is an explanation (of sorts) of why I haven’t written about it yet. Don’t be deceived by my endless procrastination – Nostromo is a truly brilliant and enjoyable novel, but there is a lot to think about it, and it is a long time since I actually read it. Now I feel just as I did as a student with an unwritten essay hanging over me like a great black crow, yet since there is no supervisor to yell at me if my thoughts on Nostromo never see the light of day, I seem endlessly able to put off posting on it.
Recently Simon at Stuck-in-a-Book wrote about how he creates book reviews, and asked how other people write theirs. The comments were as fascinating as his original post. This has inspired me to think about my modus operandi, and how utterly idiotic it is.
According to the comments on Simon’s post, people work in different ways, but fall into two very broad categories – the planners and the plungers – and there seem to be more planners than plungers. Which is not surprising. I am a plunger, I start writing a review with only a very rough idea of what I might say (and this invariably changes), and no quotations earmarked. I often read when I am supposed to be doing something else, so I never have any paper to hand, or on the bus, when I feel self-conscious about whipping out a pencil, so I never make notes while I read. Furthermore, it’s only in the act of writing that my thoughts coalesce; even if I try to make a plan my plans are so vague (‘Family!’ ‘Death!’ ‘Foreignness!’ etc.) it’s hardly worth the (little) trouble expended on bothering. This means that it takes me hours to write a post, I am constantly chopping out great chunks and changing my mind and hunting for quotations which might suit my suddenly-realised purpose, and then not finding them or finding something more interesting so going back and hacking the post about some more ... until I am exhausted. And then my fear of exposing myself to ridicule means that I have to keep the post for about twenty-four hours so that I can edit it again all freshly.
Reading the planners’ methods made me realise that while I will never be terribly organised I could make life a bit easier for myself. Thus I am about to start burrowing into the heaps of papers and books in this room as I definitely saw a handy small notebook hereabouts a few months ago, just the thing for keeping track of a few thoughts as I read. I shall keep this notebook with whatever I am reading at all times, and just woman up on the bus about making notes; after all, my fellow passengers have never sneered at my reading children’s books in Flemish or laughing to myself. And I intend to start on Nostromo this weekend, it probably won’t be as difficult as all that once I’ve made a start...
What about you? How do you work? And does your approach to writing about books reflect your approach to life generally (mine certainly does!)? If you haven’t already written everything you’d like to about this on Simon’s post, or even if you have, it’s a subject which fascinates me quite apart from my being eager to learn from you all, so please comment!
And have a happy weekend!