I’d like to read you a story, one that I wrote earlier this year. It’s called Bread And Olives, and you can download it, if you like, from Ether Quick Reads, via their app. It’s free, and it’s very short.
Last night I did a thing that I have not done for a a very long time. Last night I was impelled to stay awake in order to finish the book I’d begun reading earlier in the day. The book? Some Kind of Fairy Tale, by Graham Joyce. Buy it. Read it. Love it. (And when you buy it, why not go to your nearest independent bookseller – it’s Independent Booksellers’ Week. Keep books on the High Street, help prop up the pitiful excuse for our economy, and keep people like me in our jobs.)
And now that June is almost ended, the philadelphus joins with the honeysuckle in scenting the briefer hours of darkness. And I’m galumphing through another book… and will soon be galumphing back to the Second Draft. I’ve been re-inspired.
The Muse – one’s Muse – is a strange beast. Flighty even. But I trust mine. Sometimes, it is true, it does let me down; who has not experienced the allure of a new idea, a new story that promises so much, yet once the writing of it is begun, it peters out, dissolves into nothingness, leaving the writer frustrated, peevish, and in my case, sleep deprived and a nightmare to live with? I know that some of you are nodding in agreement – I’ve read your Facebook posts ; )
But when the Muse leads me straight and true, and the words flow and time bends – those are the good times. When the scribbled notes that last week appeared only as a random agglomeration of feelings and half-thoughts merge into a cohesive theme, expression, or even – dare I whisper it – a plot, those are the good times. This is why I trust my Muse, even when I am led to write things that I would not normally consider writing, never mind reading. There is no limit to creativity, only moulding, shaping, refining.
The writer writes, the reader reads. Once the chosen words are committed to the page, after all the processes of editing, redrafting, swearing, staring out of the window, finding wondrous new ways of procrastination etc, etc – in short, once the piece is actually finished, then the writer’s involvement in the reader’s experience is over; the old gap between – perceived – authorial intent and the reader’s expectations/experiences, begins here. The writer is not responsible for the reader. The beginnings of that chasm can be seen in the crit process. There will always be those in the crit circle who ‘get’ the writer, and there will be those who see something else on the page, something that the writer didn’t intend, didn’t envisage, or simply did not put there. I find this curious – baffling even, but I have to remind myself that I am not responsible for other peoples’ stylistic preferences, or prejudices. For instance, someone recently made what seemed to me to be a very curious assertion in relation to a short story draft. They suggested that it was wrong for one character to say of another that she looked like a mermaid, because they were nowhere near the sea. The more I think about it, the more baffled I become. Never mind the issues of voice, of what is in keeping for how the characters think, speak, act, never mind even the blurring of the line between realism and verisimilitude. Is it just me? Or is that simply… baffling? (And by the way, this is not to imply that I do not respect the opinion of the one who made this suggestion – I do. But I’m still baffled.)