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Sunday 4/16/23

I had something called "All of that Which I Cannot Do" from whenever it was from. As I've written, things are changing, large-scale approaches, which I'd prefer to address in an entry wholly about that. But right now, I am, and have been, in the midst of those changes. They occur within me, and also in approaches and plans and how I am going about various matters.

The other day I took some time to look at some items for The Solution to the World's Problems: Surprising Tales of Relentless Joy. I have to get organized and add to the formal list of short stories written since June 2018, which I've not done in about a year now, but I expect the number of completed stories written in that time to be around 450. Obviously that is not precedented. (June 2018 is a key date in this saga, quest, being when the first of those stories was composed, and when this journal began.)

I ended up looking at something that wasn't finished. Not a fragment, not what a story by me should be. Something in progress. Time doesn't matter to me. I can be writing something and then stop writing it, and return to what that is either the next day or seven years later, and simply resume. I can write a story in my head while running stairs, and then keep it there and formally compose it three years later. Hundreds of works exist in my head right now that way. I don't mean the gist. I mean down to the lines, the turns of phrase. The coloration. The spirit. The life of the thing. If I choose to think directly about that work at any point, that life exerts itself in me. I am present in that story's life. Then I may do what I need to do.

I just happened to click on this file. I'm reading and thinking, "Huh." Gap-y, not going where it would need to go, but there was the possibility of much wonder. Magic. If it was completely transformed. But that's the thing--I looked and immediately I saw. I saw what it would be.

So I applied myself. It became a whole new story. It's about a mouse in its home in a wall, and a cat sleeping in front of a fire, on what is the cat's last night on earth. The mouse has collected some dirty rainwater that has leaked into her home in half a walnut shell, and she's writing a letter to the cat with what remains of a quill of a blue jay feather that she acquired, on the back of a torn price sticker from a dollar store.

The rings a consistent chord of wonder and magic. It's about these two creatures, but it's about us as well. The mouse knows that in the morning, the cat is going to go away, and not come back, because mice are good listeners and they notice what people say.

I have been thinking about the idea of what I call indelibility. So much has to happen for writing to be great. So much has to be in that writing. You need so many things. You must know how humans are, all of the back corridors of human nature; you must know how the mysteries behind the veil work, and both be able to show them to people and do so in a way where they can feel the answers, which I won't call solutions. You have to put them in that position to see. They can't be told. Your writing is the chair for that vantage point. There is everything language is. Poetry, music, architecture, math, physics. How it functions as sound and how that sound imparts meaning itself. You must write to the conscious mind as well as the subconscious. This is just for starters. The chances of anyone ever creating a true work of art with writing is very low. There is so much involved, and so much that has nothing to do with how many so-called writers think about writing or what writing is. It's also a spirit that has to exist in you. Writing has everything to do with words; but it also has nothing to do with them.

But then we have indelibility, the ability to put something in a manner that no one else ever would, that captures what something is in a definitive and unique way that stays with the reader for the rest of their life. It's a way of seeing. A unique way of seeing, that gets to the absolute truth, which is then fulfilled in language.

The language of this story is a good example. It's a story that children would love, as well as adults. I will write about that concept of indelibility in The Other Side of the Table: How to Write with Maximum Purpose for Maximum Effect.

The third person language of the story is different than the mouse's own voice. When she begins to write, we see what a beautiful writer she is. These are words for a very specific creature, who dozes on the floor across from her, but they ring out as words for us. She has a very interesting writing style. It's a story that both makes one cry and gives them joy. There's humor, even in sad moments.

I've said what I've said about "Big Bob and Little Bob" and what it is, which the excerpt from yesterday--though it is but a small portion of the story--makes plain. When have we seen writing like that from someone else? Ever? As is said here, "There it is." I've worked on that much over what stretches back a month now. Of course, I've worked on 100 other things during that month, but time is different for me, and a month can be multiple lifetimes. That's how I've been working on "Big Bob and Little Bob." And I'm still not done. Just as I'm still not done with this other story. But it is every bit as good. It's 1/9 the length, but what is length for me? How does one measure what is in these works? Which is of course the premise of Longer on the Inside: Very Short Fictions of Infinitely Human Lives.

Pertaining to that book: On Thursday I returned to a story called "Read the Ice," which has been waiting for forty percent of a decade to run with the place that is running it, if one can believe that. I had to get more involved, and it's finally coming out this fall. It was one of the first stories written for what will end up being this book. There are breakthrough periods all the time. Every week I make new discoveries and there are new inventions. I don't mean simply that new work--as in another work--gets created; I mean the new kind--as in, nothing like this existed previous--which is also not a kind.

A kind as the term is normally meant is a thing that is representative of other things, usually that others have done or may do. It's like when people ask me what kind of writer I am. I'm not a kind. They are preemptively thinking prescriptively, which they can do with others, but not with me. This query will also tell me about how one views the world; I know that they come to things with at least a degree of a closed mind. In my personal life, I am not interested in such people. Language says so much. A single line from a single person, and you may know much about them. The writer who writes works of consequence knows this better than anyone.

"Read the Ice" is told by a woman who "reneged"--so to speak--on the family plan--the number of children they'd have--she had made with her husband. She has a reason, which is both surprising and beautiful, for no longer wanting another child, which he does, and she also encounters a form of life that we do not see coming at all, but which makes perfect sense when it does.

It was one of those stories of change for me. For instance, a creative writing professor read another short work--word count-wise--in "The Honkers" and told me that one could call it a novel on account of how much is in it. It's 1400 words long. I will go through it again soon, to make sure there is nothing I wish to alter, or to do that altering if need be. That's what I did with "Read the Ice" on Thursday. Or was it Friday? Either way, I made some changes.

That title of "All of that Which I Cannot Do"--which is a paraphrase of a line from the mouse's letter--changed and the story is now called "What the Mouse Knew." It will take its place in The Solution to the World's Problems, which is shaping into a lengthy book. I expect in the neighborhood of thirty stories. Between "Big Bob and Little Bob," "Best Present Ever," and the introduction alone, that's 17,000 words. Three--possibly four--stories still need to be written. The others I all have. I am tending to them.

The window is open now. It's cold and the cold feels good. I shall run stairs shortly. I'm listening to Schubert's Unfinished Symphony (Carlos Kleiber: Weiner Philharmonic; 1978) and have just heard the report of the cannon--it fires each morning and late each afternoon--in Charlestown from the USS Constitution.


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