Thursday, July 18, 2013
The Next Novel: Cursor Battle, Momentary Stall and the Accustory Blank Page
But now another thought-stream rises to the surface, a turbulent suggestion of fictional possibility...and the germ of the next novel is born - a rather small and indistinguishable thing as of yet, but imbued with the most glorious of potential. My literary focus shifts across the oceans, and backward fifty years in time to the mid-eighteenth century: the nutmeg hangs heavy and ripe beneath glossy leaves, cloves scent the winds, and the Europeans do bloody battle in their wallowing carracks seeking to dominate access and supply of a few dried seeds that grow nowhere else in the world. A remote time and place that shifts and blurs in my peripheral vision, replete with an energetic frisson as if the past has been whispered in my ear, made manifest in a pictorial stream of sensory impressions - for I do not write the past as much as I perceive it from the vantage point of utter immersion. I taste it on my tongue, inhale it through my pores, feel it with a visceral intensity - and then attempt the oft-arduous task of depicting it in words - to cast it in black and white upon the blank page in the fervent hope that such sensory ferocity can indeed be so translated.
Several such scenes have come to rather satisfactory fruition. In a torrid of writing, in a frenzy of flying fingers and racing mind, the characters begin to take shape. It is, however, an outline of them, an alluring shadow, hinting at the elaborated dimensionality of flesh in chapters to come; an authorial promise made most solemnly, a pledge to the attentive reader: "Bear with me - there is something marvelous yet to come!" I have not seen yet how these disparate threads resolve, but the unraveling of it is a gradual and intermittent affair - coming in tentative half-thoughts, gossamer threads that glide through the recesses of my mind in the dim hours of half-sleep, or in a rush and noise of great enthusiasm, and I will fly to the computer - hunched and tense, laboring over word selection....feeling the performance pressure, as if the characters themselves examine my efforts from the shadows with crossed arms and critical gaze...
Then abruptly: a stall, a standstill, a grinding and unwelcome halt. The cursor blinks; the steady repetitive monotonousness of that perpetual wink - as if a literary eye opens and closes in sly commiseration. Well? the cursor seems to ask: Well? What now? What grand procession have you planned? For some it is the blankness of the oncoming page that terrifies....what does one fill it with? I find that I do battle with the cursor, the rhythmic flicker waits like some preternaturally forbearing beast, enduring in imperturbable silence, craving a succession of words. I will emerge triumphant, even if ten long years are required to do so. The beast (of which an infinite variety populate my literary world - indubitably preferred to the placidity of beauties) will be fed...and hopefully, at the end of such endeavor, conclude that the procession was worth the effort after all.
For the cursor pulses to a cadence echoed within our imaginative selves...poised on the brink, hesitating, searching, pondering, waiting, then in a burst of intensity, a spill of words, a gushing torrent that paint a scene...then a momentary stall, and the cursor again waits in silence...long-suffering, unwearied. It is appeased by a paltry offering, by a hasty phrase, incomplete and lacking in substance; for the cursor knows that while it hungers for words, you must be satisfied with the coherent quality of the whole - and those passages that linger unsettled in the authorial mind will be revisited, and unceremoniously booted or spruced up with all necessary spit and polish like a recalcitrant child before a grandparent's visit. For the writer will not settle. It is part of the authorial contract with all prospective readers - a commitment to the highest levels of literary ability. Perhaps then, the cursor is less an unfriendly accusatory than it is a patient ally - waiting, in magical symbiosis with our own literary sparks, to bring to leaping fire the marvelous narrative that dwells within.
Perhaps the conventional literary angst that revolves around the blank page is of a similar nature - and that the page also can be visualized in a more affable light: waiting with all eager expectation for the spill of ink that is to come...for inherently the cursor, or the page, find an existential angst in the blankness, emptiness, nothingness of un-inscribed space - and yearn to be written upon, to find the languid ease of an onward narrative flow, to facilitate a literary work, to ultimately be something more useful, more substantial, than an absence thereof. What is it that intimidates us about the blank page, the steadily blinking cursor? Is it the empty sterility of a broad white expanse? Perhaps it is the hovering expectation of meaningful fulfillment? The relentless quest for a literary achievement that silences our inner critic? That of all the sundry things written before, this phrase, this passage, this scene, this novel, has something worthwhile about it - a literary contribution worthy of the years of painstaking labor required to bring it to fruition. A pressure, however unconsciously felt, that gives pause to the pen.
As long as we have air to breath, and food (wine, and coffee!) to sustain us - we will be yet again and again drawn to the computer, wrenched out of quotidian tasks, the keyboards pulling with the unremitting gravity of a black hole (for do we not disappear to daily life when deeply engaged?) For inevitably (given our own obdurate perseverance in the literary task) the tome will, one day, be done. And the blank page will thirst no more, and the cursor will finally be replete. And we? We will be the happiest of mortals.