I was in bed last night, reading and minding my own business when a sudden urge had me on my feet, in my robe, and on my way to the PC. It was about 11.30, the house was in darkness, with just a small glow emitting from the always on line modem. I sat down in front of the PC, opened a file, and, after a brief read to reacquaint myself, began to write.
The file I had opened was a story I began last year, a simple story about loss, about what grief does to people and the power of hope, but with a ghostly twist to it. I got out of bed needing to write, and not just anything, but this particular story. There were no particular words in me, there was no inspiration – rather I felt myself to be in a particular zone somehow, and in a zone just perfect for this story.
I had first written this story in a rush, one sentence leading to another and then another again, until they became paragraphs and they grew until there on the page was a rough hewn story. It’s amazing where these things come from – the power of the imagination is an eternal wonder. In this case I had the basic concept just appear in my mind, and as I wrote the concept was fleshed out and expanded, and characters that lived in my mind made explicit on the page. I’d like to say it was all created at the point of my pen – except that I wrote onscreen. Still the principle remains true – I had an idea to start with, but no real notion of how to make it live. Life was only breathed into it as I wrote, my imagination only slightly ahead of my typing (fortunate perhaps that I type with only one finger).
What I had created was good – the few people I showed it too thought it was more than good. I was not entirely satisfied, but never am. I viewed it as a rough draft that needed some polishing up. And at the centre of it there was dilemma, or a paradox, that needed resolving. Little in the story is actually spelt out – in fact it is deliberately elliptical, ambiguous. For that ambiguity to work though there needed to be some internal logic. The story is all effects – its the causes that largely left to the readers imagination. Cause and effect must be logical, even if there are multiple possibilities.
For a little while I could not resolve that to my satisfaction. I let it stew. I knew it would come to me as solutions to problems like these always do. And so it did. There was the solution, it required some re-writing, and required the excision of some stuff I was fond off. That’s it goes sometimes.
Last night I came to it and applied that polish, a polish that seemed so true at the time that the story seemed to have a sheen to it. It became deeper, more true. It became lived in, not just by the protagonist but I think the reader also. It’s not a major story, but quite possibly it’s a very good small story.
All in all it is a very satisfactory sensation. I am so particular that it is rare in the extreme that I am happy with what I have written. I am my own harshest critic, foolishly so some people think. I have read enough sloppy writing though to realise that being stringent and demanding is no bad thing. I don’t want to be a bit player. My writing is so important to me, and literature as a whole so much a part of my life, that I cannot tolerate anything less than perfection.
Bit of work to get there yet. It’s fun striving, but.