of narcissism and supermen
I think there is something narcissistic about keeping a blog. Maybe that’s necessary in order to keep one. Maybe that’s necessary in order to be a writer.
I was on the road over the weekend, staying at a beautiful bed and breakfast in Chester, Illinois. A bed and breakfast is the only civilized way to travel, and this one was a special treat. An old stone house with exterior walls two feet thick. A view of the mighty Mississippi River roiling past. Miles and miles of Missouri laying out before our window, painted with the morning sun. A wonderful bed and a splendid breakfast. But life called, and we had to leave such a lovely place. If you’re ever in the area and want a recommendation for a place to stay, let me know.
But on to the point of this post.
I’ve spoken here of the tinkering I’ve been doing with a story I’ve called “Superman.” I wasn’t sure if I had brought it to the conclusion it needed. I knew how I wanted it to end, what I wanted to happen at the end, but I didn’t quite know how to say it or if how I’d said it, said it.
Yet sitting in the wonderful bed and breakfast, in the wee small hours where I can get the silence and solitude I need to write, I think I did manage to say it.
It’s a long story, more than 4,700 words, but it’s thoughtful and reflective, and I expect to submit it to those “high-end” journals that publish big-L literature. I don’t think such a length is a concern to them. Whether they will consider it a worthy story, I can’t say. I think it’s well done. I think it achieves what I had set out to do, and I think it is a rewarding read. To be sure, it still needs fine tuning, and I have a specific beta reader in mind whose opinion I value. But I’m nearly there, which is a great feeling, as I’m sure you know.
As a creation of mine, this story has had a comparatively short life. I think I’ve been pondering it for less than a year. It’s the one I think I’ve mentioned here for which I left a cigar to age out at my little cabin in the woods. (I sometimes smoke a cigar when I go to my cabin, but otherwise I am not a smoker at all.) There is a scene in the story where the character comes across a box of old cigars (that were left for years in a cabin in the woods it happens) and decides on impulse to smoke one. I wanted to know what that experience was like: what condition such a cigar would be in, how it might taste, whether it would fall apart, burn fast, so forth. I want to be rigorous in my research after all.
So I checked my visit journal for the cabin and found that I had taken that cigar out there last April. I had done it deliberately to age the cigar under those conditions as story fodder. I smoked it sometime in February (for research purposes, of course). I can’t say that I learned much from the experience. The wrapper did flake off in my fingers. It did burn fast. I did have to spit shredded tobacco from my lips. But that was all stuff I expected to happen.
But my point is that I’ve only had this story knocking around in my little head for about a year, and as I said above, that’s a short time for me. But as I’ve also said here, I’m learning that I can sometimes push myself to work on a story even before I believe it is “ready.” (I suspect I avoid the hard work of writing by claiming a story isn’t “ready” to begin. Do you do this?)
So “Superman” is coming together. I’ve deliberately left Finnegans Deciphered to lie fallow during this time. I need to get some distance from it before I plunge back in for the comprehensive view and review. The flood of notes and fresh ideas I had for it have mostly ceased, which is my sign that I’m done “imagining” a story. I don’t think there will be any fundamental changes to it now. To be sure, it needs plenty of work still to get the tone right in all the right places. And I can probably do a little more (or better) foreshadowing of events to come. More sensory detail. Improved dialogue. The usual stuff.