Monday, February 14, 2011

Work: more smart, less hard

It was Oscar Wilde, I believe, who once said that he'd done a hard day's work: he'd spent the morning putting in a comma, and the afternoon taking it out. Whenever I have that sort of writing day, spent fruitlessly staring and tinkering and staring and tinkering, seeing a problem down a long vista of tunnel vision and failing comprehensively to solve it, it's Oscar Wilde who comes to mind.

But this morning I'm reading Daniella Brodsky's Vivian Rising and I've just come across this:
'... I'm not getting off the phone with you until I think of a good piece of advice.'

'We might be here awhile. Remember the Pacific Seafood Extravaganza debacle?' I say, recalling the day I was out sick and Wendy stayed at the office till after midnight thinking up a good rhyme for flounder.

'Right,' she says. 'I still don't know how your grandmother came up with "grab a pounder of flounder."'
Next time I'm having a day like that, I won't describe it to myself as the insertion and removal of commas, but rather as an attempt to think of a rhyme for flounder. In my family, any pointless endeavour is known as 'calling a Burmese cat', but the search for an impossible rhyme is a more fitting metaphor with regard to the writing life.

There are three different possible ways out of wasting a whole day in this manner, all of which involve reframing the problem rather than, erm, floundering around looking for a solution to the existing one, whatever it is, that you have idiotically set yourself:

1) Come up with an outrageous Ogden Nashish solution, as per 'pounder of flounder'.

2) Write blank verse.

3) Think of a different fish, but not lobster or oyster. Whiting, say, or shark. Better still, eel.


  1. There is a young maiden called Pounder
    Who enjoys a nice platter of flounder
    Her boyfriend thinks he'll
    Slip her some of his eel
    But she thinks that flounder is sounder

  2. My belly's feeling rounder
    since I started eating flounder.
    (I reckon I'd be sounder
    with a second Quarter Pounder.)

  3. Doubtless Daniella Brodsky spent her day wondering if she should write "off of the phone" to appeal to her US readers.

  4. I have a revised and absolutely final deadline looming, so haven't taken any time off (the Daniella Brodsky is for work) from slogging and fretting to see it yet. No matter how psychologically febrile it is, it's got to be a nice relaxed change of pace from what things are like around here.