Some writing comes more easily than others. Some writing requires cross-referencing with other work, and that’s always an endless rabbithole that can pull you away from the writing itself. That requires a lot of focus and discipline, and I don’t have a lot of that to go around. So when I feel like I want to do a lot of writing, I have to be clever about it and stick to the writing that comes easily. Focus on the thing that pulls out long globules of thought from my mind.
The thought of the moment is words and writing, and what I want to do with my writing ability. Revisiting my central motivations for doing this project, and thinking about what I want to do afterwards, and questioning those things a little bit.
I’ve always loved words and will always love words. I often find myself looking up the histories of individual words in order to see where they come from. Take the word “individual”. “in-” is a negative sort of prefix (invulnerable, interminable) “Divide” means to split in two, with “di-” (diode, dichotomy), and “vide” comes from an ancient “wiedh”, also seen in “widow”. I could do this sort of thing for days on end. I’ve read so many words in my lifetime that it’s endlessly fascinating to discover patterns between them. For instance, the root of “enemy” is something like “in-” and “-ami”– the opposite of a friend. It makes language a lot more rich, textured, nuanced, beautiful.
But what do I want to do with all of these words? Words themselves are just symbols, signposts. What do I want to say? I’ve been talking about the signposts, but what is the journey? What is the story? What are the little movies that I want to create, give life to? Every single time I try to start writing something, I get self-conscious and stumble over my own feet, getting trapped in my own analysis of my own work, and my own analysis of my own analysis of my work, and the work ever gets a chance to breathe.
“A Man Lives In A Box” was a nice little moment where I dashed something off so quickly that I didn’t have time to be self-conscious about it– and looking back, and having shared it with a couple of friends, I’ve discovered that it actually has an interesting sort of theme to it, a way of seeing things, a voice. That’s cool. I’d like to do more of that. But doing that requires me to start with a feeling of some kind, and then explore and expound on that feeling through descriptions without thinking very much about it. I’d like to get good at that, but it feels like an underdeveloped skillset.
Well I don’t want to keep talking about how underdeveloped that skillset is, I want to develop it. And that means I’m going to have to dash off more pieces of writing. Should I start one right now, in the middle of this vomit? I think that would be bad form and annoying to Future Visa to have to pick apart individual vomits to look for the story bits. No, we’ll rush through a story for the next vomit. So in the mean time we’ll continue with this word thinking.
I suppose I wanted to say that it sort of feels like the short story is a rather saturated art form, and that most things that need to be said have already been said. I look around online and I haven’t found anything that really hits me, that really speaks to me. The first thing that comes to mind is The Last Question– now that was a great goddamn short story! That’s the sort of thing that’s worth writing. What is it about the Last Question that I enjoyed so much? Well it had a great setup– it had a question that needed answering– and it had a great twist in the punchline, that really gave me the “flooded with feeling”… feeling. How do I do that? Do you reverse engineer it from a single line? Maybe, if you’re lucky enough to get it in a single line.
If I take my cues from Emma Coats and Carl Zimmer, you gotta do the research and then write what you think it is that you want to write, and then identify the story that’s lurking beneath the depths of whatever it is that you’ve just written. And then you gotta rewrite the whole thing. Most of writing is actually rewriting. I feel like I’d be comfortable with that, that I like the idea. But I also feel like I’m not ready to do the rewriting yet. I gotta just keep going through this stuff and get it out of my system.
But sometimes it also feels like I don’t have enough stuff in my system… that’s bullshit. That just means I’ve been stuck in a rut and I’ve been looking at the same things from the same perspective for too long and everything has started to calcify. When that happens what I need is to get out, to meet people, to read a book, to watch a movie, to travel, to move around and to see things from a different point of view. Creativity is just connecting things so I need to find new things to connect.
I also obviously just need to go through old things that I’ve had sitting around forever and just fucking get them out of my system because it’s goddamn tiring and frustrating and overwhelming to have to carry all of that shit around with me all of the bloody time. It distracts me from living in the present. It distracts me from enjoying my coffee, and from enjoying the company of friends and loved ones and life is just too goddamn short to be stuck. So I gotta take a cue from Ray Bradbury, and to get out of bed and jump onto the landmine called me and just fucking explode. Who cares if short stories aren’t a thing anymore? It doesn’t matter. Sincerity is always a thing and that’s what I need. Maybe that’s what the world needs too, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.