This is a post about a project that just failed, by the narrowest of margins, to be massively successful.
It's also a post that shamelessly plugs a couple of writers who put my dire scribblings into the shade
And it's probably as close as I will get to talking about my current dissatisfaction with my creativity.
Back in 2003, just before I was about to start in the company that would lead to my present job, I started to write a novel. It was called The Firewalkers
Something of a departure from my usual guns-blazing, lots of shouting and aliens going "blerg" around the place, it was a historical romance set around a travelling circus selling their schtick just before the outbreak of the 1st World War.
Based on a short story that I had written in the 90's (of which i think the only copy got killed when my computer went foom) It was the story of a love triangle between (knife thrower and newcomer) Gino, (the son of the sadistic ringmaster) Marcos and (the object of both their affections) Isobel, as well as a story of redemption (Marcos), growing up (Gino) and freedom (Isobel - sort of) - but also of the mysterious Firewalkers led by a strange young boy named Bally
And for a while it went well - i probably got, oooh, as far as chapter two before I started thinking "this is shit" and had to start again.
This time I got all the way through to chapter eight before having to go right back to the start.
There were all sorts of problems: the writing wasn't very good, the characters weren't doing what i wanted them to - but mostly there simply weren't enough words.
And so the project got shelved
And so I started again
And so it still wasn't very good. And it still wasn't anywhere long enough - I just can't seem to make the words stretch and have reached a point, half-way through the story, where everything seems to be resolved.
And it's not like it's the first time - the previous novel to that one took me five or six years of going back to the start and was still pretty awful, and The Benefit (written last year in a month) was fun but if you took out all the swear-words and the bits that were thrown in just to get it to the Nanowrimo minimum length you'd have about five pages left.
Now I don't know precicely how creativity afflicts you. With some people (lucky gits to a soul) it travels in linear fashion: they get an idea, they can follow it through. ME?? My ideas flip about like goldfish in a tank.
Think of it this way: I play guitar. i quite like playing guitar and writing songs - it makes me happy (or via writing extremely bleak songs stops me feeling quite so bad - and I'm sure the Watercats will appreciate where i'm coming from with that one), but put me in a room with anyone else who can play and immediately it's clear i'm not very good.
Same with art, same with writing. Now this may sound like I'm blowing my own trumpet here - but just occasionally I write something really good (not this, admittedly) - but take a quick look at the following blogs:
(and apologies to all the other brilliant blogs, but i just want to focus on two for the moment - particularly as a) they are men and b) there are a lot less men blogging than women)
Firstly - Existentially Dynamic, come on people - why aren't you visiting this site??? the "Clandestine Samurai" writes with passion, energy and commitment that deserves your time. The thought that someone as eloquent as this could see their talent to go unused is terrible.
Pohanginapete - this man makes words flow as easily and as beautifully as water. Nuff said.
And yeah - you might think that none of this really matters: that creativity can be its own ends if it makes you happy - but I find that I am constantly frustrated by my ability to get great ideas and then not feel like I am able to bring them to fruition - and it's this feeling that I'm not as good as i would like to be that is a constant thorn in my side.
So I ask myself: what's the point? How come I get all these ideas? Wouldn't these ideas be better off sloping along to someone who can actually do something with them? What is the point of a book that is never read, a song that is never shared?
Anyway - enough of that. Here's the first page of the book. Maybe one day there will even be a last page, but don't hold your breath.
She span high above the sawdust, her body floating like a flower in the breeze as she moved. Her fragile limbs twisted madly in the heavens, arms and legs intertwining with soft, fluid motions. Gravity seemed to look away and sigh in defeat as she swung higher and higher across the canvas sky.
Suspended only by the bit between her teeth she flickered like a shadow cast by a candle, dancing through the air as if caught by the wind.
A single slim hand reached up, clasping firmly onto the bar. A second followed not far behind, fingers curling effortlessly around the cold metal.
Below her the lights were dimmed in the almost empty arena; only the pale light of the sun through the thin canvas walls and the dim flicker of the lights below illuminated her frame. They caught her costume, reflecting broken shards of sunlight. Pointed toes arched up and above her head, sending stray sequins glittering down to mingle with the sawdust. Her feet entwined around the ropes, like a slender vine climbing an old and cragged wall. Slowly, with no sign of effort, she pulled herself upright and onto the bar. She took a moment to enjoy the view, waving her arm to an imaginary audience. Finally she began swinging, faster and faster, legs kicking out in front, cutting through the turbulence.
Gino watched as the girl passed overhead, feeling drab and dull against her peacock colours. He glanced down at his worn-out clothes. The trousers were falling apart, held up and held together by string and will power. His heavy work boots were scuffed and worn with age, his waistcoat hanging uncomfortably on his thin shoulders. Both his shirt and jacket were two sizes too big, despite Mama’s best efforts to adjust them. Both were engrained with the dirt of a thousand places, worn in so deep that they could never be washed out.
Gino let his hand slip slowly beneath the corner of his waistcoat, allowing it to rest on the hilt of the dagger beneath. The weapon’s familiar weight reassured him, made him relax slightly under the wilting gaze of the Ringmaster. Still, he couldn’t help but feel their decision not to change into their costumes had been the wrong one. Perhaps their Circus costumes, paper thin and gaudy as they were, would have given a firmer grounding. He locked eyes briefly with the Ringmaster and knew that nothing he could do would make any difference.
Gino smiled nervously, trying to gauge the mood of the man in front of him, he was offered only a scowl by way of return.
The Ringmaster was a big-built man, fists permanently scarred from fights. His grey eyes were cold and calculating, almost impossible to read and his face could have been moulded from granite. A young man, clearly his son, stood silently behind him. He was about Gino’s age, with dark eyes that reflected some of the chill emanating from his father. Give him a couple of years, Gino thought, and he’d be as big a son of a bitch as his father. The young man caught Gino’s gaze and acknowledged the attention with a slow nod. A shiver ran through Gino’s body: perhaps he had been wrong about the son after all.