I am considering the old potato in the vegetable rack who, in spite of being long past it’s eat-by or anything useful date, still sprouts and puts out ridiculously hopeful white and green shoots according to the life force that is still in it. I am not an old potato but it must be said that I am possibly (think Jean Brodie here) “past my prime.” This is fine by me. My prime would have been useless to me anyway, even if I hadn’t got M.E. which scuppers all possible plans. I would have gone on bicyle rides and proper camping holidays (I don’t mean Eurocamp) with my kids is all. I would have written more and/or earned a bit more money is all but whether the world would have been a substantially better place as a consequence is unverifiable. I never knew what I was really for in any case. The schools I attended – at least eleven, but I have lost count – mostly looked at me as though I were a peculiar variety of potato that was best not cultivated, and this, with absence of “proper” career, has left me free to be more or less concentratedly myself for most of my life. It might have helped if I had been able to identify what that was earlier on, but in the grand scheme of things this also doesn’t matter. I am, as I've said before, a very late developer.
Still, it’s time to get a bit of a move-on now. As filling up cheap notebooks with blue- ballpoint words does seem to be my metier I am concerned about how little of this I have managed to do in my gap year which has already gone past the half-way point. In September I will again be focussed on others’ creative potential and development and pleased to be so – the more pleased, however, if my own work is on some kind of a roll. Basically, I am stuck at the moment because I can’t decide whether to focus on poetry or prose-writing and am beyond the point where it is ok just to fill up notebooks and see what happens. I really need a proper task. The only one who can give it to me is me and I am blocked by, strangely, a sense of having too much (rather than nothing or too little) to say and how to choose and find a form for all or some of it. I suspect that even Natalie Goldberg, who has been so helpful to many writers, especially those who are just starting out, suffered at some point from this kind of thing. She could write beautifully, especially (imho) in Wild Mind, about the writing process, but when it came to writing her own stuff she petered out and some of it was bad and almost embarrassing to read. It was as though she never really found her sense of direction outside of writing about writing and perhaps that was what she was really for. My case is different: I’m not famous as she was so don’t have that pressure and I have a sense that once I’ve settled on form and task I’ll be able to take hold. Meanwhile, back to the notebook, it’s the only way in and out. Physician heal thyself.