So it seems I’ve forgotten how to write. Not that words and letters escape me, nor has the ability to construct a sentence completely eluded me, but rather I can no longer string paragraphs together in order to create a narrative. A story, a book, an amusing tale, they elide me, dance and twist and wisp out through my fingers as I try to hammer them down with my stiff, prodding fingers. Frustrating!
I came into the office yesterday, in part to escape the sweltering miasma that had engulfed the City and in part to roll up my sleeves and take a crack at the first chapter of my next book. Next novel, UNREAL CITY. I made coffee. I went to the bathroom, came back, browsed the internet. I searched for images of the UN, I read about the human body’s ability to down-regulate adrenaline, I investigated the current housing of the world’s greatest supercomputers, and scanned the opening lines of several great books.
Then I got up and made some more coffee.
Finally, after several hours of fussing, I typed out in bold letters at the top of a new page: Unreal City.
Then I centered it, pressed enter a few times, and then tabbed, once. Still in bold, I typed: Prologue.
Enter a few more times. And stopped. It was awfully warm in my office, the AC being kept to a weekend low, and I was exhausted from my nearly complete lack of sleep the night before. The coffee was not proving strong enough. I took a deep breath. Cast my eyes idly about, and then lay on the floor for a quick nap.
I awoke, about an hour later, with a stiff arm. Muttering, I arose to my feet, and gratefully sank back down into my chair. I twitched my mouse from side to side, dispelling the screen saver, and there was Word. Waiting for me.
I let out a long suffering sigh. I really had to write something. I knew what the scene required, where it took place, who the principle characters were, and at what point it should end. I just needed to kick it into high gear. I fanned out my fingers, hesitated, and then tentatively typed an opening line. Which I deleted. I tried another. Deleted it too, and then in an angry burst wrote a whole paragraph which I then deleted with even greater speed.
I leaned back. Scanned the photographs I had open in Firefox to orient myself again. All he has to do, I thought, was walk into the Hall of Knowledge, check in with a few experts about what had gone wrong, and then confront the Aggregate Artilect. That was it! And I couldn’t even get him walking down the hall.
Finally I ground out two paragraphs, and then began to laboriously correct them, refine the metaphors, change sentence structures, ponder word choice, worry that the jargon was too technical, the metaphor too tortured, the pace too stilted. When I pushed my chair away from my desk I was beat, and had very little to show for it.
What’s worse, I read what I wrote last night, lying in bed, and could barely get through the sentences. They were perfect, distinct units, but together they read like a mouth full of broken teeth. Rubbish.
So, erase, rewind. Back to the beginning. Prologue.
Neil Gaiman once wrote that you have to learn how to write books anew each time you start a new book. I feel like I could dive sinuously into another Crude Sunlight styled story, but what’s the percentage in that? I want to try something difficult, something challenging, and hence my current lack of progress.
It’ll come. You keep hammering away at something, eventually even the biggest block will crack, shiver, and then eventually fall before you. You may not blast it away with one fell sweep, you may end up having to hike your trousers up and leap up over it, scrabbling and getting dirty in the process, but you’ll get there.
It’s just a really aggravating process until then, is all.