Photograph of a personal demon


We all have artefacts that have weird effects on out inner selves. Pictured in this post is a personal artefact that has become a mental equivalent of a ball and chain. It’s a detail of a heavily hand edited printout of a story. Too long to be “short”, too brief to be called anything else. The time stamp on the photo is 2007 but I have tinkered with it since I think 2003. The first paras are in quoted in an older blog post.
Print out of story draft with hand written notes
The monstrous quality of this thing starts harmlessly enough. Typically when I read it after opening the drawer while looking for something else. Nothing harmless about skimming over a few lines no? A paragraph gives an invitation to be edited. The flabby sentences get tightened. The extraneous is amputated. A few perfectly meaningful sentences gets added. They efficiently describe details that give what feels like meaningful depth.

Inevitably a new detail becomes an unavoidable opening line to another paragraph. For a while the sentences write themselves. More paragraphs come and go like hair pin bends on an unknown mountain road. You don’t know where it’s going or how far. The only signs simply say “there’s a lot more to go”. Eventually you snap out of it and hours have gone by. Important things have been left untouched. To my horror, the thing has grown bigger. I can already see where the some “tightening” (as the voices call it) can begin. Before my eyes the fresh sentences acquire a corny embarrassing stench. Automatically the paw fumbles for a pen. Scratch out line here. Add a word there.

It never ends. This “story” is my personal version of Jorge Luis Borges’s “The Book of Sand” (the short Wikipedia article describes the metaphor better than me). It eats hours and precious sleep yet takes me nowhere nearer to the finish. There’s a sense that the story could be infinitely long. To quote a line from “The Book of Sand”, “If space is infinite, we are in no particular point in space”. Just replace the words “space” with “the story” and you get what the end of an “edit session” feels like.

So what to do? Lately I’ve managed to dodge its spell. Real life has plenty of reasons to pull me back. Fact is that you can’t build anything by piling up sand crystals. There has to be some sort of underlying narrative structure to build on. I’ve taken a few tentative steps at it. It still feels futile. What’s the point?.

Yet the demon’s magic keeps me from shoving it in the shredder. The fact that I have only pecked one post for march this year somehow made it seem even more powerful. The insanity is that I barely time for blogging (I know I have said so endlessly) let alone work on a “story”.

The only fitting thing is to pack this little metaphorical pickle into a blog post and call it a night.

4 comments

  1. Borges would have loved this and so would Roald Dahl.

    The story about the story that has cast this spell is more interesting than the story!

    This is visceral stuff Cerno, it’s biting my belly and I’m scared.

    Like

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