Every City, no matter how beautiful, has a corner into which the shit floats.
And so it begins: a new project.
There’s something energising about hitting upon the right beginning. I’ve been in a slump lately, bereft of ideas, searching for artificial ways to stimulate my creative energies, worried that I had, perhaps, exhausted my ideas and really was now nothing more than a low-level art administrator. It happens. Some of the best writers out there hit a point where they’ve simply told all the stories they have within them, and walk away. Witness Harper Lee. Witness EM Forster.
Of course, what is always apparent, once I’ve passed through it, is that I was in my sponge phase: lying dormant, letting the waters sweep over me, filtering out the salt and the nutrients from the jet stream. And then I slap on the saddle and the family bunker down and prepare themselves for another 6 months of me being a grumpy bastard, or at least, a slightly differently grumpy bastard.
It always happens like this. I always forget that this is how it happens. I always have that moment of panic, that moment of despair, and then that moment of sullen acceptance. And that’s always when the spark hits.
In this case: in the car, on my way to work, out of nowhere. Just that first line, and the knowledge of where it fits.
The Canals of Anguilar. A short story that I wrote for the lovely Kate Eltham and the Review of Australian Fiction. 8000 words long, and yet I was never satisfied with it, never happy that I’d told the whole story. Because I hadn’t, and it was that single line, out of nowhere, that made me realise it. It’s a good story, don’t get me wrong: I only submit when I’m convinced I have something good, and doubly so for Kate.
But it’s going to be a better novel. Deeper, wider, with the stories I wanted to tell but was only able to hint at because of the compressed length. The short story is my synopsis, my outline. The novel doesn’t begin where it begins, it won’t end where it ends, but it is the blueprint for what I want to write to make me happy with the idea. After which I will descend into the sullen belief that have exhausted all my ideas and really have nothing left to say as an author. Again.
Away we go.