The tyranny of the blank page.
I want to write. I need to write. I want to write a novel. A story full of characters that are memorable and sympathetic – or memorable for the pure recoil they cause when recalled.
I want the story to be utterly original. The plot may be original – “Mission” by Patrick Tilley – or maybe the story is not as relevant as the form – “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams – or the plot and characters are interwoven in such fine threads that one is simply part of the other – Shakespeare or Dickens.
The bar that I place in front of myself is impossibly high. I know this. However, I am a mediocre man with a mediocre life. If I am to produce art, it must be extra-ordinary, memorable, worthy of pop reference in “The Simpsons”; I must achieve something that is greater than the sum of my parts.
How do I achieve this lofty goal? No idea. However, I do know where to start.
Simple scratchings. Writing for the sake of it. A little bit every day. I have tried this before on a few occasions and failed to keep it going – but I go to bed every night with words, sentences, ideas spinning through my brain. Sometimes, my head is so full of words that I construct entire paragraphs, moulding them and shaping them so that they become more coherent to my bleary mind. Thus, I am compelled to try again. I may fail – again.
I want to write for an audience. I don’t exist in a vacuum. I live in a community – albeit a virtual one. I have no sense of connection with my surroundings other than my immediate family and friends but I do have a sense of connection with the many people with whom I interact via Facebook every day. I understand that it is not as good as “the real thing” but for now it provides me with a sense of belonging to a larger group. It is all a bit pathetic, I know. I was told many times when I was younger that my inability to be “happy in my own company” is a failing but it is simply a part of who I am. I like to be alone but I have a strong desire to be a part of a large group as well. The “Facebook crowd” is my community – and is the audience for whom I write.
For now. Later, I may be able to write for a larger audience. I don’t know.
What will I write about?
I thought about this for a long time. A very long time. I cannot write with regard to any subject with any authority. I simply do not know enough about anything in particular. I know a bit about myself but I don’t want to “go there”. It is not a happy place. Thus, I have decided to start from the fact that while I don’t know a lot about anything, I am curious about nearly everything. This gives me a start.
I do not understand. I just don’t get it. This will be my blog.
As a child, I genuinely thought that there would come a day when life would make sense – that I would “just know”. I kept waiting for the magic penny to drop. I’m still waiting. My parents seemed to have it all under control. I was never placed in a situation where any decision I made would have any impact beyond the immediate future. My parents made those decisions for me and I had faith in them. Now, as a parent, I – along with Pauline – make all the “big” decisions for my children. I attempt to ensure that their concerns are childish concerns.
Now I understand that this “parental certainty” (for want of a better phrase) is an illusion. To the child, the parent seems to be sailing along the currents with a direction to follow and all future courses mapped out in advance. Any intelligent adult knows that this is an utter impossibility – but we maintain the illusion for our kids. The duck appears to swim gracefully while, beneath the surface, it paddles madly just to keep up.
And this is as it should be.
As I grew older I started to understand that my parents did not know, and could not provide, all the answers to the questions forming in my mind. I came to understand that while they were following a general direction in life, their course was not cleverly worked out many years ago, step by step, with each eventuality planned out and subsumed within the master-plan. They were making it up as they went along!
As we all do.
However, I still maintained the illusion within myself that one day it would “all make sense” – that I would “work it out” – that I would, in common parlance, “get my shit together”. I’m still waiting.
As each day passes I learn a little bit more about the world around me – about my fellow humans, about the environment within which I live, about all the wonderful and abstract constructs available to the human mind. But as I open doors in the world around me, it just gets bigger. I have become aware of my very own version of “Socratic ignorance”. The more I learn, the greater my ignorance. If I open a small crack and peer through it into a new field of knowledge, I become aware of an even greater vista of information reaching out far beyond my new field of view – one I cannot ever cross – not in this lifetime – not in a hundred lifetimes.
This all sounds a bit hopeless and nihilistic. In times of mental darkness, I can find such ignorance overwhelming and think myself worthless. In fact, I have lately formed a notion that the unconscious realisation that my rainbow had no end that significantly contributed to my initial mental collapse. I often feel overwhelmed, worthless, aimless, useless – a prisoner of my own inadequacies. I don’t know if this is true. It’s just a notion.
On my brighter – read: rational – days I know that I am not worthless. My wisdom is worthless – not me. Then I realise that the situation is, in fact, reversed. No matter which crack I prise open, no matter the direction in which I choose to step or indeed the number of steps in that direction, there will always be something new to learn, new vistas to explore, new breadcrumbs of information to gather, to store, and to process. This is very exciting. I can never be bored.
My blog will deal with my ignorance. There are so many things I do not understand – from the mundane (such as tattoos) to the perplexing and entangled problems like our innate and utterly human ability to hate, mistreat, marginalise, and kill one another.
I am going to write about my ignorance – in no particular order. I might propose a partial answer to my questions but generally it will only be an opinion. I might muse about cause and effect but once again – only my opinion. Everything I write will be my opinion. I am prepared to be construed as right or contradicted as wrong. In fact, I encourage anyone who reads my blog to offer their own answers (read: opinions) on any issues I raise – or indeed ask questions themselves – on-topic or, if they please, off-topic.
I will try not to offend but it is inevitable I will. I have opinions on many subjects and can be scathing of the opinions of others with regard to any that I feel impinge on my rights or the rights of my fellow humans. I will not tritely beg forgiveness but if presented with a compelling argument for a need to apologise, I will do so – humbly and willingly. Well – maybe not humbly. I’m not good at that.
I do not possess any genuine answers – only more questions.
Welcome to my blog.