Minotaurs, Writing advice from Mervyn & the GoodCop/BadCop routine – #editing #lettersfromladyn

The Minotaur was shut up in the labyrinth, a vast area with many corridors and passages, in which anyone who entered got lost, because it was impossible to find the exit. (Greek Mythology, Marilena Carabatea)

Sometimes editing can feel like that, I think. The minotaur (not the Greek myth) that moves through the work in ‘Night Divers’ is a conversation with a creation/a riff of Mervyn Sweet, a friend of mine whom I had met through the QUB Creative Writing Masters.

His minotaur, as I experienced it, represented the beauty, the strength, the contrary straight-to-blunt-talking worth of spending time with creatures who have been designated to dark places who appear in this bad light, bad eyesight also a factor, to throw shadows of monster heads in vast hotel corridors and then on closer inspection you realise you recognise that face…

His minotaur (released from the labyrinth) had a tendency to turn up unexpectedly – maybe will again, always delighting on being in daylight and asking me a question, which I have now come back to explore much more thoroughly, about the quality of conversation that can be had in the deeper layers of the realm of the, for want of a better word, beast.

That meeting point of truth and beauty that is experienced as relief – release even – though it might not be what people are hoping you are going to say and, maybe, lacking in the nice poetic arts. This is the kind of editing that can capture a person for a long time, wandering with only a thin line for company, not with murder in mind, just an exercise in courage.

Sunday morning sermons with Mervyn

This is what a friend of mine called our regular meet-ups when we had the time for it after the QUB Creative Writing MA ended. We met, shared work – I expect I did a lot of the talking. I loved Mervyn’s work, still do – I run quite a few of his riffs in my head often. And a good share of his, for want of a better word, pre-occupations – not just the minotaur – got into me. There wasn’t any sermonising.

It’s just that what Mervyn said generally met my ears as solid good sense and I always came away feeling the world was back on its right axis after meeting him in the way I think a lot of writers feel when they meet up with kindred spirits and have the writing chat. It was a kind of sustenance through the non-writing week, and I miss it very much.  Some of the conversations, not so much altered, as made me much clearer about my own writing preoccupations.

More general writing things I often remind myself of and tend to attribute to ‘a friend’ when I repeat them are, as follows:

(1) Even if a bit of writing doesn’t work out, you don’t know what gateway it might be to something else. No writing is wasted (but, just to be clear, it mightn’t be going anywhere either).

(2) Editing is as exciting as the first write – because in the process of editing you tend to actually find out what you are writing about.

(3) Atrocious things are no subject for ‘good poetry’ (ie who wants to be saying ‘wow what a perfect sestina’ when they are reading about the depths of human – or other – suffering – write the perfect sestina if you can/must but don’t expect me (ie Olive) to be congratulating you on your craft on the occasion.)

(4) My personal favourite – more life commentary than advice which came from my first introduction, as it were, to the man himself and contibuted in spades to my liking him a lot –

It’s doing it, getting out into the deep water and staying there
Right up to where the sharks tear your b*&^cks off
And what’s worse, you have to thank them for doing so.
“*

(* Edited – Very sad not to be able to ask permission to use this – but hoping it’s okay).

The Good Cop, Bad Cop Routine

“Usually two different cops do that”

Or on being Theseus and the Minotaur at the same time when approaching your writing…

Or otherwise, I’m thinking of adding a category for film clips that run in my head as a response to writing questions (that are also for the most part in my head – hence this blog).

A useful blog by author Jan Carson on editing (find HERE) reminded me of how much I love the ‘Bad Cop, Good Cop’ scene in Steve Martin’s ‘Pink Panther’ – I am laughing still and what I’m laughing about is that this is sort of how it is in my world when it comes to getting to the bottom of who’s at fault for what’s not working.

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