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Thursday, 10 April 2014

Schopenhauer, Zen, Heidegger and… How Much Time Did You Say You Have?

One minute it’s the end of March, the next it’s almost mid-April; or so it seems. My deadline of 30 April is looming. Working days remaining: 14. Words required: 17,000. Okay, so I’m going to be a little late.

This week has been somewhat fractured. Today, for example, I simply had to write a report on a manuscript I read Tuesday. Heidegger, Schopenhauer, Zen Buddhism and… golf. Now that did challenge the grey matter. Try finding 2000 words to write about that lot without exposing your ignorance.

I’d read the manuscript on the train on Tuesday. I was supposed to spend the day in London. The idea was to pop into the London Book Fair during the afternoon, then meet up for an early dinner with my Chinese client – sponsor of the sci-fi book I wrote towards the end of last year. In the end, a chest infection had rendered me so low that I gave up on the L.B.F. and wrote off the £25 I’d paid for my ticket. Caught a train which got me to London at 1745h, had the meal, and scuttled back to King’s Cross for the 2100h train, arriving home about half an hour after midnight.

The meeting with my client was interesting. He had with him the guy who’s acted as midwife on the deal, at the Beijing end – and here, in the sumptuous Shanghai Blues restaurant, he acted as interpreter. A South African, he has lived in China for the better part of twenty years and speaks fluent Mandarin. The meal was excellent, although heavy on the meat and fish, with very little in the way of vegetables.

My client asked quite a few questions about my background and explained that he was hoping to develop this first story into a trilogy. Was I interested in being involved? That’s a tough one. A paying proposition is always interesting, but I have plans for a kind of retirement after this year’s work is over, plans that involve:

  • re-writing two unpublished novels
  • re-vamping the account of my 1994 bike-ride across Nebraska
  • resuscitating a third novel that I abandoned in 1991
  • writing up my western travels as a series of short stories
  • concocting a fiction about an assault on wealth inequalities
  • working on all my Mari Sandoz material, including a bunch of audio files
So, six or seven book projects for myself: where to fit in another two sci-fi novels? I guess it already becomes an equation based upon assumptions about how long I’m going to live. Sobering thought. But, as with a garden, I guess the best approach is to assume that I’ll be at my desk for a  long, long time to come.