Last week, while far from The Worst Week Ever (even if I limit the application of that to my own experience), was not a lot of fun. There was the unexpected heap of misery which lay in ambush at The Regular Job, and its constant and numerous reinforcements. There was the entirely expected craptacularity of the weather, in which one was pleased to find that the high for the day would be -20°. There was the sore arm, stemming from item one on this list. There was Mysterious Leg Pain, which I’m seeing my doctor about this coming Friday, and which went from vague annoyance in the middle of one thigh to serious impediment when mounting stairs to the point of earning status as a proper noun. All these external items gave my depressive aspect a nudge into greater activity, so my mood was lowered over the course of the week to something that was still well short of clinical, but was certainly deeply mopey. “You know,” said the interior voice of gloom, “not only does the weather and the job suck, but you suck too for putting up with it. And you’re going to get fat if that leg keeps you from walking. Fountain pens are a fad. Oh, also– how much of your writing have you submitted for publication?”
The last of there was something I could sort of do something positive about, in the shape of looking into the ways of people who can put down author in the OCCUPATION box of income tax forms. There is a certain element of self-flagellation in that pastime, since the inner voice can in turns declare how much less capable I am than that person, while that one who’s rolling in royalties is manifestly less capable, and so forth. Good fun. It’s also a fairly inconclusive activity, for although one might glom onto one or two small tips or encouragements, the only appearances of CLICK HERE TO GET PUBLISHED RIGHT NOW!! have a uniform approach to remuneration which favours the author even less than the traditional paradigm in which the work is submitted, ignored, rejected, polished, resubmitted, rinse, repeat until publication. However, there was one thing that caught my eye in passing that interested me greatly.
One of the writers whose bloggery I looked at mentioned in passing that she’d been taken with an urge to write an updating of a novel of the 19th century. While she also said that she’d dropped the idea as the themes were too dated to bear dragging out of the 19th century, the very notion that such a thing was open to contemplation and admission gave me a little boost. It wasn’t a completely unfamiliar concept, of course, although it’s one I’m more familiar with in films– Invaders From Mars is frequently set up against The Wizard of Oz for comparison, for example. There’s also one of my favourite authors from my teen years, who got a lot of mileage out of framing historical events in a science fiction setting, and he was not shy about mentioning it in the very stories. Still, seeing that it’s not a thoroughly discredited practice was a balm to my troubled spirit.
It is, however, a balm with a certain amount of icy/hot in it, to be kept away from sensitive areas. Some of the projects I’ve set aside in my efforts at writing have been shelved after reading, for the first time, something by a well-known author who unbeknownst to me has already hit upon many of the same conceits I was so proud of inventing. This isn’t connected to the dreaded Campbellian limit to the number of possible plots, but more specific details of mechanic or even mcguffin. I sometimes feel like a macaque who, very proud of inventing the art of potato-washing, finds that it’s been done for ages on the next island. It stings to find out one is doing that sort of thing without knowing it; I have serious reservations about consciously pursuing it, even where the author one is chasing is long dead.
Something else that gives pause is a fear of gimping up one’s ability to imagine a world. I have often been tempted to write a response or a quasi-sequel to something I’ve really enjoyed, but even though it’s not unknown, I worry about waking up one day and discovering that someone else’s world is the only one I can picture stories in.
The final worry is the real terror, though. While standing on the shoulders of giants is a long-recognized way of improving one’s outlook, there is a certain concern that one will discover that one is not only a dwarf, but a dwarf who rather sucks at the activity at hand. The view may be great, but it seems to me that there’s a risk of a terrible fall, too.
Very little of which has to do with the usual matter of these entries, so I’ll mention that while in the throes of this somewhat teenage-ish angst over writing that I’m not devoting enough time or energy to in any event, I did get a load of fresh pages mounted on my site. A couple of them include dwarves which do not suck at all.
Today’s pen: Waterman Master (say, that’s a new page, too!)
Today’s ink: Pelikan Brilliant Brown