Pebbles on the Edge

Pebbles on the Edge
Lake McDonald, 2014

Saturday, February 11, 2012

On Writing...Or Just Because I Have a Computer Doesn't Mean I Can Write

Writing. I happened to look back over a book I was writing a couple of years ago called "The Island", the story of one James (Seumas) Mackinnon, thirty-four and a bachelor, living on the Island of Skye (an t-Eilean Sgitheanach), around Cruard on the Sleite penninsula: writer, poet, musician, Gael, and brooding farmer, &tc. And a young lady named Julia Herron who comes to the Island for the wedding of her father, and bla,bla,bla, and all of the predictable shite that occurs before they can be together. It might be a good story--I still think it is, as a story itself, but the writing is horrible.

Of course it is. All of my literary pursuits are the same. Why do I do it then? To torture myself? Because the stories are in me and they must come out? Maybe because I have always been a storyteller, just not a very good one where writing them down goes. Here's an example: (please don't laugh, those few of you who read this silly blog!) This is from the first chapter when James' manuscript, "An t-Eilean ag Eirich" (The Island Rising), has been rejected by a 7th publisher.

"James read the rejection letter a third time and looked out over the water and the brown strand glistening dully under a leaden sky as the morning tide receded from the shore, finding that his current state of mind was at least in agreement with the weather: grey and gloomy. Across the sound he could just glimpse the mainland with the humpy forms of Knoydart’s mountains displaying a forbidding aspect through sheets of misty rain, wreathed in low cloud that continually shifted to reveal first one part of their mass and then another. Fey, he thought. The fog was a Faerie bewilderment, the sleight-of-hand that veiled the Daoine-Sìth from human sight. The Faeries, James knew, conducted their daily business under cover of shadow and mist, and their nightly mischief by darkness and moonlight. So it had always been. On this day, they were convening a gathering amid the hills of Knoydart. Judging by the roiling mass of fog, it would be a large one.

Well, he had expected nothing less, either from the publisher or the Faeries. Like grasping at a handful of eldritch vapour, authorial success had eluded him once again...If ever an experiment had yielded such an unambiguous outcome, James couldn't think of one. His trial-run had concluded pretty much as he'd predicted: getting a major work of historical research published in Scottish Gaelic was about as likely as finding a live salamander in a peat-fire, or a Faerie asleep by one's hearth. Drunk, perhaps, but never asleep."
And so it goes and so it goes. And that's one of the better bits. The rest of it--all 145 pages of this drivel, is just that: drivel. Sigh. And I had the audacity to think, at the time, that it was pretty clever and witty. Alas, I'm no Jane Austen. I'm not even a good hack-writer.
I used to think that I was somewhat clever. When I am in the throes of writing, I have that belief. But as I open up these old files like the old, hidden recesses of my delusional mind, I comprehend that I'm not and probably never will be. I am, as a matter of fact, mediocre at everything. It's the one unyielding, incontrovertible fact of my life, and as I near my retirement, I realize that I will have left nothing but mediocrity behind. Depressing, really...
Jane Austen's writing table, at which some of the greatest works of clever, witty, and sardonic literature were written, by hand.