On the side of a cabinet in my lounge, a single piece of Carl Critchlow artwork hangs in a plain A4 sleeve, held in place by the simple expedient of double sided tape. It is an unpublished piece of Carl’s, kindly donated to me to be the front cover of my first fiction anthology. It hangs there because it is in my eyeline every time I enter the room. It’s a reminder, a chastisement, a promise and a damn fine piece of art to boot.
After completing my first poetry collection, the urge to get my writing into print at last was unstoppable, or so I thought. While the focus placed on poetry required to get that book out has left my poetry facility healthier than it has ever been (to the point where the second volume is already half completed after only four months) the drive to get my stories published is unfulfilled. While I can drop a poem in a matter of minutes, from memory to page with only pauses to find alternative rhymes for my preferred pairs, the story writing urge has been beaten down by the occurrences in my personal life. Financial woes, romantic failure and imminent house loss inspire poetry but stifle story writing, it seems. I get the occasional piece of flash fiction, usually in the 400 to 800 word range, but that’s it. While something is better than nothing, it is frustrating. (Another frustration, to be precise.)
This evening I’ve taken a break from job hunting to revisit my notes, short stories and partially completed tales. It leaves me sad that there is so much here, and even allowing for my bias, so much good prose just lying about like a field of textual headstones in the graveyard that is my ‘Stories’ folder. Even worse are the fragment respositories, where three decades of plots, ideas, fragments of stories, background information, scene setting and other usually unseen supporting cast for good books lie gathering e-dust.
I had promised myself for twenty years that I’d get a book published. I got the poetry book out and smiled, for it was completely my own work (and by inference, only me to blame). My first hard copy book, proof read ad nauseam by me, photographs cut and manipulated by me, fonts chosen with painstaking care, layout prototyped half a dozen times, cover aligned in pixels for fit and effect. I thought it would feel more of a triumph. The only thing I felt can be described in three terrifying words:
“It’s a start.”
Now I sit here in the comfort of what is my home for only another 41 days, while todays two dozen job applications reside in seemingly indifferent inboxes and far away I am sure I can hear bankruptcy assessors sharpening their pens on their valuation sheets.
I wonder if I have left it too late.
From what I can see and from past efforts, I have at least five years dedicated work to prepare and complete the fragmentary stories that exist in some substantial form. The three bigger works are an unknowable time beyond that, because they are so all-consuming in their spread I will have to work on them exclusively, at least at the start. Then there are the two linked novels or novellas… You see? I haven’t even begun to touch the thirty to fifty tales that exist only in outline or single paragraph form.
While the poetry of the classic tragedy where the author starts his life’s work too late to see it completed is not lost on me, I would really rather I not try it on for size.
At least I know beyond question what I want to do now. The rest is just process, as a friend once said to me.
So until I complete this process and arrive at literary creation realisation (now that’s fun to try and say ten times fast), I shall update my website occasionally with the tales that occur to me in the gaps between problems, and drop the odd poem on to Facebook or my website if it is good enough to share in rough form yet not of as pure a gemlike quality as I am trying to maintain for the ‘previously unseen’ elements of the second volume.
As that horribly overused cliche says so well: Only time will tell.
Bear with me, gentle reader. I shall endeavour to reward your wait with several books eminently worth your time.