Busy ‘writing’ week and yet little actually written. I revisited some old ideas, not having sufficient time or inclination to let new ones ferment into something positive and I’m impressed how fertile my imagination is/was, but slightly concerned (read terrified in unguarded speech) about my inability to finish things. Not an inability to know where I am going with things, I often have an idea, at least, of the ending of a story as I begin putting words on the page. No. Rather it is a reluctance to wrap the thing up. Whether it is related to my lifelong reluctance to slow down as I near the end of reading a book, not wanting a good thing to finish, or whether it is a fear of tarnishing the effort of the beginning and end of the stuff I have written with a weak ending, I am unsure.
Whatever the reason, and it may of course simply be laziness, it means I have files and files, mostly electronic these days thank goodness as there is only so much space in house, of unfinished stories. Sometimes I find one and think, ‘Damn, that’s good!’ but then on reading further suddenly wonder where I was going with it. The trick is of course to make some notes, however perfunctory, about story arc, characters, plot perhaps and ending if there is one. Yes, I try and do it now, but there were obviously many times when the idea seemed so cool and urgent that I ‘knew’ I was on a roll and just had to get the words down as they flowed. Unfortunately, whatever muse was hanging around at the time, something intervened and what may well have been a brilliant story is lurking, unloved like a clapped out matinee idol (look it up if you are too young to understand what one of those was- search engines are your friend) looking for a future that seems very uncertain.
The surge of activity started with the Open Mic night I posted about last week. Rummaging through material to read I started opening folders cunningly marked ‘finished?’ ‘in progress’ and ‘ideas’. Even in the ‘finished’ folder were files that had alternative endings, plot twists and character development.
In among the mass of words I found a short story beginning I remember being very taken with at the time of starting. It had a start – a psychiatric emergency admissions ward in Cardiff, and I know it had a hook to possible psychic/supernatural phenomena, bit of a cliché, but I hoped there was a sufficient twist to make it unfamiliar, and an ending. And there’s the problem, I remember the reason for the behaviours and the putative link to supernatural matters. I remember the discovery of the link and the probable dismissal, it was all rational, (or was it?) was going to be the unresolved ending. I think. But how did I plan on achieving it? The feeling of the ending and the rough concept of the middle are still sloshing around in my brain but did I write down any of the details? Of course not.
I read the beginning of it to a writers group the day after the Open Mic night and confidently suggested that I knew where it was going, had the middle sketched in my head and that the ending was there. But as I sat in front of the keyboard the ending became more wavy and unfocused as I thought and wrote about it.
I put it to one side for a few days and kept coming up with ideas but they weren’t the original idea. I know I should go with the any of the other, perfectly good, and maybe better, ideas I have had this week (after all the original one didn’t inspire me to finish the damned thing did it?) but I am still trying to get my brain back into the place it was in when I had the first thoughts about it.
One of the problems with electronic files, along with the delights of space saving, is the date stamp it puts on ideas. I was scribbling ideas and decided to open up the file and bang a few of them down and as I did it I noticed the date of the original file, which was 2014. Not as old as many of the ideas I have swilling around in various electronic ethers, but even so! It still seemed like an idea that was fresh, had only just been put aside for a moment and that moment was now six years in the past!
So, note to self: be more ruthless in finishing stuff – better finished and good enough, than unfinished waiting for a perfection that may never come.
Re time: Be wary of AGMs. I attended the AGM of a writers group yesterday.
The Horror. The Horror.