I admire the ability to start a project with known objectives. I don’t have that sort of discipline or focus. It’s not my fault; my brain won’t behave. My career reflects this: I’ve somehow migrated from fine arts to IT consultant/trainer (go figure). I’ve written poems and prose through all of it, but considered my work far too neurotic and obscure for public consumption. I did publish short stories and a number of poems in various college publications, however. I figured they’d be more open to experiments and I was right. In college (a number of them) I took classes in anything that interested me. None of them fit in any particular degreed program, so I didn’t receive one.
I tend to write poetry when I don’t know what I want to express, but I want to express it anyway. I revisited some of those poems every now and then, sometimes I find latent thoughts. I jot down my impressions in liberally structured essays, none of which attempt to link paragraph to paragraph. I just wanted to record what struck me at the time. I have a huge number of these essays. I remember reading a book by Carl Jung. He asserted that a symbol is a complex notion developed over ages by a culture, and that art was signage, a notion developed by an individual. Basically, he felt that symbols were beyond an individual’s full understanding and signage wasn’t. I thought, “Isn’t an individual a symbol?” That got me going. True to Jung’s sentiment, it followed that I shouldn’t understand me either. My pile of essays was “me as a symbol”. It seemed to me that an interesting project would be to develop a true symbol from them as an odd sort of path of self discovery.
I sorted the essays out, and used them to model metaphors for people, places and things. At that point, they weren’t much more than a collection of unrelated elements. I needed a structure that provided an environment for interaction and unity. I decided on a monologue, and patterned it after transcriptions of Celtic epics. Seeing as how the epics were of an oral tradition, and only written down hundreds of years later by monks, it seemed that a monologue was an obvious choice, and the infusion of other religious imagery was equally natural (the monks did a lot of editing). I let his head explode, thus making him the point of union.
The process became an act of layering relationships on various other elements, one to the other, and on that, layer external references. The story was really in the drama of these relationships. Still the elements were too delimited despite the interweaving. They needed to blend blended like the abstract forms of a watercolor painting. I made the narrator a drunk. That did the trick.
I rewrote the entire book over and over to find the best voice, tone, pace, etc. One day, I simply burnt out and called it done. Since publication, I’ve second thought most of it obsessively. I had to take a creativity leave of absence. That’s where I am now.
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