This week Schmutter accused me of being weak-willed. Luckily he was far away or I would have been tempted to murder him.
He sent me the following (edited) email:
Just read your story about the Hugh Grant party. Very funny. Have to admit I didn’t read the other bits.
I’m reading ‘Willpower’ by Roy Baumeister. A passage made me think of you:
‘The clear implication was that the best advice for young writers and aspiring professors is: Write every day. Use your self-control to form a daily habit, and you’ll produce more with less effort in the long run.’
I know self-control and willpower are a breeze for you, but if you happen to be interested in the subject anyway, this is an interesting read.
How could he impugn my self-control and will-power I fumed, eating a chocolate eclair (not strictly on my prescribed list of healthy foods)? What an idiot, I thought, at the same time enjoying the warm glow of his compliment. (Did I mention he’s a genius with superb judgement?)
Sadly for me Schmutter is not the only critic in my life. This week an entire poetic form jeered at me.
We are ‘doing’ formal poetry with the fabulous Jenny Lewis (google her, she’s worth it). She asked us each to write an epic poem of our lives using Anglo-Saxon rhyme heads and caesuras (alliteration and breaks in the middle of the line, respectively)
Don’t tell anyone but I do think my life has been epic. It’s been an epic effort, anyway, trying to get from A to some character in an alphabet I still can’t really decipher. I feel, in short, that I’ve come quite a long way.
The trouble is, none of the traveling lends itself to epic.
Epics, if you ask me, are about man (and it is usually a man) tangling with the exterior (eg Beowulf). They aren’t about people sorting out, or not sorting out, their hang-ups.
The harder I tried, the more tangled up I became. (Thinking about it now, I should obviously have gone for metaphor, but I didn’t think of that then.)
The more entangled I became, the more I began to believe this was a misogynist plot. Most women are barred from starring in epic poetry, ran my reasoning, because our stage is often so much more private and interior. Our monsters live in the caves of our minds, not in the Danish swamps. Mine defeated my attempts to make them swashbuckling, or even interesting.
I’ll spare you my epic fail but suffice to say it’s hard to make close inspection of one’s nether regions, however valuable for the individual, into anything anyone would want to read, let alone into an epic.
The truly annoying thing is that I’ve been reading another book called Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar (it came free with the Guardian newspaper) which makes the exact same point about habits. Two minutes reflection, or less, tells you that habits must be a fabulous resource for anyone trying to do anything. How hard is it to stop bad habits? That’s how powerful good habits must be.
So, Schmutter, I knew that habit thing already, yeah?
Must stop here. I’m off to get into the habit of being nice to good friends.
Schmutter? Schmutter? Did I mention that I LOVE your new car?
See? It’s working already.