Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Leaner Body, Leaner Prose

Before: March 2008
Three years ago I was flabby: in print and on my bones.  My phrases needed discipline.  My 105kg body needed a workout.  (See also my 'mentally sexy' photo here).

Since then, I've exercised my pen in newspaper columns and books.  I've toned my arms and legs with weights, Karate forms, jogging, hill sprints.  I've been on a literary and gastronomic diet, cutting out Henry James and confectionary.  It's been violent: I've punched with friends, and cut into text.

I still enjoy purple prose and ice-cream with Nutella.  But there's been a double distillation: of my prose and my body.  It's gratifying on both counts.

After: March 2011
Why?  Most obviously, because I'm freer: less in the thrall of appetites, emotions, ideas.  With discipline and clarity comes a little freedom.

Now, this isn't 'do whatever you like' freedom, but independence, strength, autonomy. It's the opposite of slavery, only the masters are junk-food companies, or great authors.

In this, distillation is perhaps the wrong metaphor.  My body isn't some essential thing, which I've only now concentrated.  It is new: a different body shape, coordination, strength.  Likewise for my prose styles.  They're not essentially me: they're cultivated, contrived.

Why is this important to me?  Because this process is precisely what I've recommended in Distraction: the slow task of creating oneself.  As I see it, the philosophical struggle isn't simply for truth, although this is vital.  It's also to live well in light of one's discoveries. Or at least to try, with some courage and conviction, or their dumb cousin: stubbornness.

In my leaner body and prose, I at least have the latter.


genevieve said...

That's awe-inspiring and you are right to talk of dedication and stubbornness. As well as the fashioning of a self, the fleshing out of prose. Congratulations, the opportunity for analysis is well earned!!

Damon Young said...

Thanks, Genevieve.

I don't know about 'awe', but if I can inspire someone to go for a run or edit a few adjectives, I'll be happy.

Emma Kirsopp said...

Well done! There is something incredibly empowering about discipline, both in the body and in work. The two are closely linked (I can always tell the state of my life by the state of the studio)...

..and here's to my favourite dumb cousin, stubbornness, without it I would be a lot worse off

Damon Young said...

Thanks, Emma. I rarely have a messy office, but I do think I write more productively when I'm regularly exercising. Sloppiness, in fitness and prose, seems to be character-wide thing.

Of course, this is only with me. I'm obviously a very simple soul, without much internal differentiation - moods have to be character-wide.