Well, that went well. Plenty of action, anyway. No more big piles of paper.
Plenty of small piles, though – so many that my spare room has all but disappeared. My other half looked in at one point and commented – a little tactlessly, I felt:
Thought you were supposed to be tidying up! That bin’s still empty.
I explained how some of the piles were moving closer and just awaited a final check to see if there was anything – a pleasing turn of phrase, the merest germ of a good idea – that might save them from being pulped. And then there were those pieces that weren’t much good but had nostalgia appeal … little poems I wrote to stave off the crushing boredom of exam supervision back in the day, slightly inebriated dialogues written late at night when I should have been getting my beauty sleep, hastily scribbled accounts of incomprehensible dreams I’d woken from … and there, in a pile all its own, my historical novel whose narrator’s heavy dialect made its eighty-thousand words well-nigh unreadable.
That thing? You’ll never get round to doing anything with it. Unless it’s a comic short story about a bloke who reckons he’s a writer.
When she stopped laughing, I told her it wasn’t a bad idea. I’m well known for my stoical acceptance of mild adversity. Don’t know how I’d go in a real catastrophe but that, perhaps fortunately, is for the future.
29 March, at the earliest …
Actually, anything rather than recycle something I spent the best part of five years researching and writing! One of these days, you never know, I could get my second wind and turn it into a smash-hit stage-musical or a block-buster movie-scenario. Laugh all she likes, bless her, she’d be happy enough to sip exotic cocktails on our luxury yacht moored in Monaco or Cannes …
She left, still chuckling, perhaps planning her own best-seller. Perhaps not.
My Walter Mitty moment passed and I gazed despondently at all the paper covering the carpet and single bed like giant wedding confetti. My own plan, to pass all these rough drafts through the eagle eye of my hastily-devised list of aesthetic principles, was in tatters. Night was gathering and I’d got nowhere.
Time was of the essence. I had to act and act fast or I would be crying myself to sleep in the spare room surrounded by the appalling evidence of my own failure.
Yes, time was ticking by. No last-ditch flight to Brussels for me. It was either all in the bin or else back into big piles as if nothing had ever happened. Was I a complete and utter waste of space?
And then, in a blinding flash, it came to me …
The fault lay in my plan, of course! It had been too hasty. My red lines were far too rigid. Or else far too pink and hopelessly vague. And as for that ludicrous catch-all conditional at the end, what fool would devise a set of rules which ended with Rules are there to be broken?
It would have beggared belief if I hadn’t already known what an idiot I was. But there was no time to be lost. I had to come up with an alternative set of aesthetic principles and fast! However, too much of my intellectual energy – such as it was – had been frittered away trying to decide whether old scribblings were Almost Finished or Barely Begun or Half-Baked But Could Cook Through or Good In Parts or even Patchy But Full Of Unfulfilled Potential. It didn’t help that my ability to judge was hopelessly inconsistent, veering between feverish delight and febrile despondency as my ego and id battled it out before a supremely indifferent superego.
As chance would have it (and any readers of this account who are still awake might hope) there was a deus ex machina in the form of one I’d prepared earlier – the ‘one’ in question being a set of aesthetic principles I’d devised for an epic poem about something or other which I’d never even begun – the ‘set’ in question having come to light while I’d been going through my papers but which, preoccupied as I was with the search for literary gold, went unrecognised for what it really was.
I’ll leave you with a copy, in case it’s of any assistance in your own fruitless searches, because I must take to my bed tout suite so that I can be up bright and early tomorrow morning. After all is said and done, who knows what a new day will bring?
Besides, my crystal ball’s down the mender’s …
- First thought, best thought (Ginsberg)
- Intuition attains the absolute (Bergson)
- Unity in diversity (Hegel)
- Without contraries, no progress (Blake)
- The words must be irrefutable (Orton)
- Show don’t tell (James)
- Write the story only you know (Fountain)
- I write to find out what I didn’t know I knew (Frost)
- In art, the subject matter is nothing (Maurois)
- What then? No then. (Kafka)
- Be true to the earth (Nietzsche)
- Re-enchant the world (Brazilian eco-artist)
- It is necessary to be absolutely modern (Rimbaud)
- Make it new (Pound)
- Liberty is the mother, not the daughter, of order (Proudhon)
- Invent new values (Nietzsche)
- Forget yourself (graffiti)
- I is another (Rimbaud)
- See all beings in yourself and yourself in all beings and lose all fear (Eastern saying)
- Only connect (Forster)
PS The above are paired – meant to be 10 of them but I couldn’t get the numbers right!
Image: America’s Survival