Thursday, 22 November 2012

Bent Blue Hinge

So, I almost quit writing a couple months ago. Close friends know that I almost quit at least once a month, but this time it was serious. After fourteen years, I felt I’d gained no return on my investment. Plus, I had recently made the mistake of reading articles about the publishing industry.

Never read articles about the publishing industry. Either someone is writing about the death of the novel, or they are writing about fat cat publishers, or they are portraying indie authors as a barbarian horde invading the marketplace, getting their grubby fingers and snotty noses all over everything.

To be honest, I think my heart was a little broken. We’re taught that if we “try our hardest” then we’ll achieve our goal. I’ve not only “tried my hardest”, but I sacrificed my twenties (and the first half of my thirties) to the single goal of publishing. Seriously, I’ve spent 99% of my adult life in front of a computer giving myself a headache over the nuances of grammar.

So, on those grounds, I quit. And for a few days I felt a certain kind of freedom. Anger, yes, but mostly freedom. I didn’t have IT hanging over my head anymore. There would be no more plot knots, no more self-appointed deadlines, no more worrying which grammar landmine was going to explode in my face.

I went for a lot of walks during those days. I tried to smooth out the wrinkles of regret. I listened to a ton of music. I stood at the edge of the prairie and watched tumbleweeds race across the plain like herds of buffalo. The wind beat me red, and I loved it. It felt like I was on the verge of something new.

Then, on the way back from one of my walks, I happened to pass this old blue fence. It was weathered and peeled and crooked from too many Alberta winters. And at the end of the fence was a gate. As I passed by, I noticed that one of its hinges had torn free from its post. The hinge (also blue) was bent and curled into the shape of a shoehorn. Beneath the gate, the dirt had been scraped and scooped away.

I wondered: maybe some small creature, like a leprechaun, had escaped from the yard behind the fence. And then I wondered why a leprechaun would escape from a yard. Had someone held him hostage? Why would they do that? And where would the leprechaun go after he’d escaped and...

I paused on the sidewalk. I stared at that hinge. And then I knew. I just knew I could never stop writing.

Not because of the idea (it wasn’t a very good one), but because of what I saw as a result of a bent blue hinge. Most people (those sensible types) would look at the ground and the hinge and think a dog or a cat had dug under the fence and broken the hinge. Or maybe they would think nothing at all and keep walking.

 But not me.

You see, the damage has been done. I’ve moved past the point where writing is something that I “do” and it has become something that I “am”.  Fourteen years of neuroplastic manipulation has left me permanently tripping in Imaginationland. Whether I like it or not, my brain is an idea generator. I’ll always see leprechauns running for their lives. It doesn’t matter whether publishers give a hot damn or not. It doesn’t matter whether I’m read or not. The stories will always demand attention.

I suppose I could ignore it the way that John Nash guy did in “A Beautiful Mind”. Maybe the leprechauns would leave me alone. Or maybe they wouldn’t. Perhaps ghosts and aliens and pirates would crowd my brain until I couldn’t think anymore, and I’d become some kind of babbling moron (moreso).

But that does me no good. If I’m going to babble, I might as well babble on the page. If I’m going to see poisonous apples in trees and robotic crows with knowing glances and graveyards full of shivering corpses then I might as well write about it. 

But that raises a new question, and I can't help but feel unsettled by it:

Am I writing these stories for myself? Or am I writing these stories for them.