I’m going to Hong Kong for a few days. I’ve only been there once before, when I was eight — it was my first trip out of Australia. I loved it then and I’m looking forward to seeing what it’s like now. Also looking forward to being in a place with hills for a few days!
And I had me a revelation. People who’ve been following this blog know that I’ve had a lot of second thoughts about writing and regrets about continuing to try to write after The Etched City, rather than do something else, like go back to a real job. Then, thanks to Silence Without, I saw this talk by Barry Schwartz on how the overabundance of choices in modern life helps to make us miserable. Too little choice is bad, but so is too much. I already knew that I tend to get fatigued and fed up when I go shopping in big stores with too much stuff to look through and decide amongst, but Schwartz also explains — convincingly, I think — how we’re likely to be less happy with our choices when we have a hell of a lot of options.
Career/job/that thing you do is obviously a huge choice for the modern middle classes. And I’m very glad I had and have more options than “barefoot and pregnant”. But because I chose writing, of all things, from everything else I could have done, I feel a lot of responsibility for that choice, for my lostness and failure in the last few years, and a lot of woulda-shoulda-coulda about paths not taken.
A couple of of days after watching that talk, though, it struck me that I didn’t particularly choose writing. It chose me. I wasn’t able to not do it, even when the muse had packed up and gone to Panama and I had no ideas (ETA: correction, loads of ideas but couldn’t work out how to turn them into anything publishable) and was freaking out.
It wasn’t what I chose to do with my life, it was what life chose to do with me. That makes a difference. The responsibility isn’t all mine. Life just finally picked something for me to do. I don’t know whether this is even “my” life, really. The pattern doesn’t own the kaleidoscope.
I don’t know what this means yet, but I don’t feel like I made a terrible mistake anymore. I will keep writing. Maybe I will write something good. I wrote three good stories last year. (Yes, I think Heart of a Mouse was good, and no, I haven’t read The Road, sometimes stories or books are like each other because they draw on similar tropes, ‘k? )
I’m trying to thrash out a beta-able draft of Tea Master. I think it’ll still take a while. I’m struggling with the tone a bit (I mean, a lot.) I’m mainly worried that the scenes are too different — that there’s too much of a contrast between silly in one scene and serious in another. Even though I think there’s a reason why it can and even should have a collagey feel, it just might not work in a piece this short. Though it always seemed to work in Monkey. Anyway, if the tone doesn’t work for any people I can possible cajole into beta-ing this thing, I’ll worry about it then. (If the plot doesn’t work, I might prefer not to know!)
I think I know (yet another reason) why this story is causing me so much trouble, too. It didn’t “really happen”. I changed the characters and circumstances a lot in order to turn a daydream into a story, and I think my heart is really still with the daydream. It was originally a gentle interlude, and it’s hard to make lengthy fantasy stories out of gentle interludes. Anyway, the interlude quality is still in it, I think.
I would still like to work out why I’m so obsessed with this story. Especially when the muse is really still in Panama, occasional visitations aside. Ginflailbathchocolatetv… ETA: I do know, though. Trying to capture something that I can’t capture with this. Wrong story, wrong characters, wrong plot, and I keep trying to tweak it to make it do what it can’t. I just hope it captures something else — and not a boojum! Ginflailbathchocolatetv…