Wednesday 16 May 2012

Some people stand in the darkness, afraid to step into the light

“When I feel difficulty coming on, I switch to another book I am writing. When I get to the problem, my unconscious has solved it.”
- Isaac Asimov

I've used this quote before. It is my lifeguard in what often feels like an ocean of pages and words that are capable of losing all meaning at a moments notice. It is something I cling to for safety, but at the same time something with which I am not entirely comfortable. In this way my lifeguard is also an octopus.

We must all have these from time to time. Advice, methods or guidelines that we have adopted, that seem to work, but we don't feel entirely comfortable with the processes until it is actually clear on each separate occasion that they're working. An old octopus lifeguard of mine is my method for writing essays, that to most people appears so counter intuitive that they will not even attempt it. People just flat out refuse. At first I wasn't entirely comfortable with it either. It seemed too convenient. We need to embrace the octopus.

I am reluctant though. The lack of appeal in this little kernel of wisdom is in the writhing suckered tentacles of our previous relationship, which was abusive and unhealthy. I used it unilaterally as the foundation for a cornucopia of poor literary decision making and general copping out. Apparently the octopus lifeguard is also my ex-girlfriend now. 

The point I am actually trying to make with this increasingly convoluted metaphor is that sometimes you need to look at how you've been doing things and accept that it isn't working, and that just because you executed it poorly last time doesn't mean that there is a fault in the octopus (or the method). 

At the moment there is only The Book, but most of the time I spend with it is horrible and unproductive. The other side of this is that there are also one hundred and thirty-two other stories in various stages of The Process. Some of these have been put aside because the structure and characters exceed my current ability and experience, while others have been outgrown, and others still are trapped in there own circular logic. They aren't all like this though. Some of them are just waiting. Waiting for the The Book to be finished so that they can audition for the lead. Well, one of these budding understudies is being promoted to the status of The Other Book (or The Second Book, I haven't decided yet). They will share time in my life. Neither one will be treated as the dominant role. 

To be clear, the books are ballerinas and the process is the Baywatch Octopus. You can have as many ballerinas as you want, but only one octopus. You can suck back on ballerinas like they're going out of style (seriously, they aren't real people, they're metaphorical people), as long as it doesn't impact negatively on your relationship with the Octo-Hoff. I'm sure I could've made some better choices with this metaphor earlier on, but I'm enjoying it now. The point being that I am staying wary that this approach has been handled poorly by myself in the past, but sometimes it's worth trying old things anew.

Embrace the Octo-Hoff, but keep it professional.

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