Saturday, 12 July 2014

Unfinished articles: Abandoned stories

Rather ironically I wrote this post a little while back, bemoaning my inability to finish and upload my posts, and then failed to finish it.  I publish it now, worts and all, for your interest.

Oh dear, somehow I knew it would end up like this. That, no sooner had the metaphorical gangplank been raised, signalling the start of my adventure on the Clyde, and the knots and cleats of sailing reality replaced the hopes and dreams of imagination, then my enthusiasm for dedicating an hour or two to penning interesting prose would fade away irreversibly. And somehow, despite being aware of the danger, the risk that the anticipation I had built amongst my readers would be dashed against the rocks of disappointment, I allowed it to happen.

I lie here now, tapping away on my iPhone screen in the middle of a late Spring night, I could make myself feel a little better about the situation by telling you that it always was an inevitable outcome. Sailing is a demanding activity, physically, mentally, and occasionally emotionally, and there simply isn't sufficient capacity in the human mind - I mean my very human mind - to dedicate to the rather frivolous and peripheral task of charting the days events in writing. But, whilst it is certainly true that the time available to me for blogging was a limited commodity, usually eeked out from moments otherwise reserved for sleeping, eating or engaging socially with one's crewmates, the form of writing used, and the expectations made of myself, were a conscious decision for me. By this I mean that I choose to write long, hopefully expressive sentences, carefully conjure images in the mind of the reader, and generally sweat and squirm over every word and clause until I'm absolutely happy, or at least as happy as I ever will be, with the results. It is me who chooses to write in a manner which takes time and effort. Me who eschews brevity and embraces verbosity. I am my own worst enemy.

And so it was, that I found myself stirring in the early hours as the good ship Avacet rocked gently on her moorings, exploring my immediate environs with pensive finger and gentle touch in search of my elusive virtual notepad, and indulging in cerebral gymnastics, painting pictures of sight and sound with the humble English word.

It was by no means a shore. Indeed, writing has long been a release for my thoughts. However, that isn't to say that capturing a day's worth of senses recorded in my head, and translating them into script which conveys adequately the holistic experience, is a simple and uncomplicated task. As something of a persistent apprentice in the profession of perfectionism, I am inclined to interrupt the writing process every sentence or so to correct a misplaced word or rework a clunky passage. I'm doing it now in fact, stopping in my tracks to consider how the informal "clunky", set amongst more greater eloquence, might prove abrasive to the eye or ear, and stop the reader dead in their tracks. And, as I rummage for the right words or rhythm the story I am attempting to relay ebbs gently from my mind.

Lying there flat out in the coffin like space between the central bulkhead and the wall of assorted belongings constructed between my cabin companion and myself, I fought a constant battle between the forces of imaginative writing, accurate storytelling and a creeping fatigue which frequently threatened to immerse my body in creativity sapping lethargy. The previous day's events - the powerful gusts which began striking our sails with relentless regularity, the apparently permanent list of the saloon which made tea making a perilous activity, and the sheer joy of peering through a porthole to see conical silhouette of the Scottish Holy Island rising steeply from now calmed waters - loomed bright and bold in my head. The words too, which would bring them to life when applied to a webpage were not difficult to find. But their relentless refinement taxed my already depleted resources, resulting in stunted stamina and a growing impulse to succumb to sleep so as to be refreshed for the morning's tasks.

Pushing back against the urge to close my eyes and rest my mind, I ploughed on for another paragraph or two. But by now the pressure was becoming too great, and the very real need to put down my pen was becoming fixed in my brain. The sentences became shorter. Workmanlike reportage replaced evocative imagery, and the very foundation of my writing, the enjoyment of playing with words to enact scenes from memory or imagination, began to shift in the sand. And before long, that mind, once active with thoughts and ideas, would relinquish its burden and relax into slumber, leaving the stub of a story hanging lifelessly like a beautiful bridge to nowhere.

Oh to not care

Months and months ago I set out to turn over a new leaf in the documenting of my life.  Sounds grand, doesn't it?  Well, it might have been grand had the perfectionist inside of me not scuppered everything.

You will surely not have overlooked the fact that, since putting finger to (virtual) keyboard back in those heady days before the coming of Easter ... or the Tour de Yorkshire ... I have failed to publish a single blog entry.  This is pretty poor, even by my standards, but really isn't for want of trying.  I've now lost count of the number of articles I've written.  Articles on my sailing trip in the Clyde, articles on journeys in the past, and even pieces - just like this one - bemoaning my complete inability to finish and post a post.

I'n pretty sure that virtually every non-perfectionist thinks that to be one means to be perfect.  Nothing, at least in my own experience, could be further from the truth.  To be a perfectionist is to write every sentence ten times; to review and counter-review; to dot every "i", cross every "t" and ponder eternally over the merest hint of a split infinitive.  The perfectionist is cursed to spend their lives in search of the very best metaphor, whilst worrying that it might actually be an analogy; to search deep in the recesses of their poor cluttered brain for a certain word, as only that one will do; and to not stop writing, editing, or worrying until they are absolutely, completely, one-hundred-and-ten-percent positive that everything is absolutely perfect ... which, of course, it never is.

So, this is why, I have umpteen unfinished articles sitting in a little bit of cyberspace, just waiting for hell to freeze over and my resolve to slip, allowing them to be shown to the world in all their 99% perfect glory.

But that isn't the end of the story, as you will have guessed from the appearance of this not-quite-perfect-post.  I simply cannot go on like this.  I need to write!

So , here is my plan, not my first one I should say, but let's brush over that.  I'm going to do a little deal with you, my dearest and most valued reader.  I will write more posts, tell you a bit about what I'm up to now, and what I've done in the past, if you promise solemnly never to comment on the inadequacies of my spelling or grammar, the structure of my prose, the lack of imagination in my storytelling, the factual errors and blatant, omissions, the things I shouldn't have bothered with and those I should have but didn't, or the fact that I am about to break my original promise of writing only about over there and not the here and now at home.  This is a rebirth or sorts, a freeing of the self-imposed shackles with which I had previously constrained my own thoughts.  I will now write about anything and everything (within reason...), and enjoy it.