The Journal of Failure – Week 18 of 2020

Week 18 of 2020 – 6 May to 12 May 2020



  • Goal – 100 / day, or 700 / week
  • Achieved – 1,003/700 – Success!

Writing – I Remember

  • Goal – 14 / week
  • Achieved – 14/14 – Success!

Writing – Small Projects (Fragments, short stories, etc)

  • Goal – 2 minutes / day or 14 minutes / week
  • Achieved – 32 minutes – Success!

Writing – Large Projects

  • Goal – 3 minutes / day or 21 minutes / week
  • Achieved – 25 minutes – Success!

Getting myself out there

  • Short story reviews – Three (Five total for the year)
  • Submissions – Zero (Zero total for the year)
  • Rejections – Zero (Zero total for the year)
  • Acceptances – Zero (Zero total for the year)


Week 17!

Not a bad week.  Not a bad week.

Reading is clearly here with a vengeance.  More on that later.

Writing actually went well for a change.  I vacillate between wanting to write in the morning or the evening.  This week it was evenings only, which worked well.

I have a small child – she’s 1.5 years old.  19 months or thereabouts.  We’ve changed our dynamics such that when she eats between 5:30 and 6pm, we eat.  We all eat the same food now (she has less or no salt), and then the dishes are done, the bath is done, she’s put to bed and it is – 7pm.  The night is ours.

And thus, writing can get done.

I spent most of my writing time working on a short story.  It has echoes of my time in Madrid, though refracted through the lens of a young woman who wants to be a revolutionary even though all she has experienced is middle class life, and all she has read are the novels of Mario Vargas Llosa and Antonio Lobo Antunes.  This went well enough, with a neat (unintended) switch of perspective mid-way through, but I was stumped for what to write about with a larger novel.  I’m stuck between resurrecting something old and dead, or starting afresh.  Every time I want to start from scratch I flick through all of the novels I own (well, a percentage of them) and then… copy a favoured writer.  That’s a base at least.  But I was stumped and stuck.

Eventually, though, I folded the above story into something I was working on mid-last year, and I think it went well.  That helped me formulate some further thinking about where I’m going with it.  There’s something here, I think, but the key is less about appreciating the potential of that which exists in my mind and more about forcing through the daily routine of writing, writing, writing.

For anyone who may be interested, I have read from an excerpt before, as part of a Sublunary Editions event, which you are welcome to watch and listen to here.

I’d certainly encourage anyone who is interested in fine literature to subscribe to Sublunary Editions.  Of course, I have been published there so I am somewhat biased, but all of the writers are handsome in their own way and very talented.

Otherwise, I have been quite taken by a YouTube project recently begun by two people I follow on Twitter – Derek Maine and Knowledgelost.  They are putting on weekly YouTube chats about literature (alongside their other videos), and I definitely recommend a listen.  Here’s the most recent.

I often think up projects involving YouTube or podcasts or what have you, but execution has never been my strong point.  I am pleased to see a growing literary YouTube channel.

In terms of reading I read bits and pieces from a lot of books, and finished a few.

I finished a short poetry collection by Miroslav Holub called Vanishing Lung Syndrome.  Skinning is a very fine poem, and the whole collection (which runs to 70ish pages) is worthwhile.  Holub is concerned with internationality, death, and the violence of damaged body parts.

Marguerite Duras’ L’Amour was excellent.  I quite like the spare, almost script-like prose of later Duras.  I never warmed to The Lover, but L’Amour and Abahn Sabana David (both published by Open Letter Books) are wonderful and really represent the kind of literature I love to read.  She’s rapidly climbing the ranks of one of my favoured writers, and there’s still so much to read.

Charles Baudelaire’s Paris Spleen was what I needed when I read it, which is to say I wanted something urbane, witty, dark, and claustrophobic to the city.  I got it.  I hadn’t read a word of Baudelaire before this, though I do have a bilingual edition of Flowers of Evil somewhere.  I was missing Paris, and missing the ability to walk through a city street, and this helped somewhat with that.

I had some trouble with Seamus Heaney’s New Selected Poems 1966-1987.  It is the second time I’ve read it, and I want to like it more than I do, but I have real trouble with writing that is focused so intently on nature, trees, bogs, mountains.  Whether in prose or a poem.  It doesn’t seem to stick in my brain, my attention wanders, time passes and pages turn and I have taken in nothing.  I have never much liked nature and it’s become more apparent as I have gotten older that I can’t read about it either.  Just slides right off.

Lastly, I have begun an ambitious project to read all of Pynchon again.  20-30 pages a day until it’s done.  It is a long, long project.  I’m about a hundred pages into Pynchon’s V, which I have not read since May 2004, which is astounding to me.  I remember parts of it, too, which says quite a bit about Pynchon as a writer, doesn’t it?

We’ll see if this project has legs or not.  I am very good at creating projects.  Very good.

And that was my week of failure.

Each week I aim to provide an update on the Journal of Failure.  These reports are intended to provide an impetus for me to achieve as much as I should/more than I do, and also to provide a further ongoing record of my life, as it is. 


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