A Very Long Road

Wow. Five months. So much for starting a new blog in the hopes of getting back into a routine.

Well, maybe it’s not as bad as all that. The most important thing is always the next story and since November I’ve been revising an old novel that I’d once consigned to the Black Hole File. I’d sent this novel (it’s still titled “By The Still, Still Water”) to my editor and he’d pointed out some pretty deep flaws and that it’d be best to move on to something else. So, I wrote “The Palace of Winds,” which is now . . . resting.

Since I needed something to do, and I wasn’t ready to write the follow-up to Palace, I went back to “By The Still, Still Water” out of . . . well . . . spite and frustration to begin with. However, as I’ve worked on it, I’ve come to an entirely different set of motivations.

For a writer like me, i.e. someone who failed at the resume building aspects of higher education (I didn’t take advantage of the pedagogy electives and the teaching assistantships, didn’t apply for the internships that could have landed me an editorial job, etc. (to explain the psychology of some of those self-rejecting decisions would be a post all by itself)), I have had to divide myself up into unequal parts ever since. The largest chunk of my time goes to a vampire job that serves no purpose but to feed my creditors (student debt until I’m 70 – yeehaw) and keep food in my belly. The rest of my time is split up between my personal life, and writing. That three-way divide, I’m beginning to realize, means that every story that gets finished is far too valuable to let slide away into that Black Hole File. Since my day job doesn’t feed nicely into my creative life, I have to fight to keep that creative space defined, and I have to come to grips with certain things I had once wanted but now must surrender.

It’s also forcing me to rejigger how I approach my habits and thinking about writing and revising.

In other words, “By The Still, Still Water” looks to be one of those novels that will take a decade or more to get right. Looking back, I think I had an idea that this book would sift out that way when I was writing the first draft. I seem to remember a journal entry where I speculated that the story was maybe a bit beyond my abilities at the time, that I simply hadn’t reached the right level of emotional maturity to effectively imagine the lives of the people I was writing about. Maybe I’m still not there because, in truth, over the last few months that I’ve been working on it, I’ve hit some snags that have really slowed me down and rattled my confidence in it. However, I simply can’t give up on it . . . at least not until I’ve finished this revision.

Of course some of the slowness I’ve felt could be coming from the never-ending tug of the larger chunk of my life pulling me inexorably into corporate drudgery.

I don’t like where this is leading. It’s not where I thought I was going.

I set out to write a quick post about how I’m resurrecting a novel I’d once decided to give up on, and about how I have another novel in the wings that I’m itching to get back to because of my reading of Joseph Campbell’s Primitive Mythology, which has give me ideas for revising the one waiting in the wings . . . and here I am writing myself into the darker corner of the room. The dark corner I’m trying to ignore.

Let’s call it my mid-life crisis corner. Or the Abyss corner. Or the inevitable result of too many bad, desperate, falsely practical decisions corner.

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About jasonquinnmalott

I am the author of "The Evolution of Shadows" (Unbridled Books, 2009), host of The Outrider Podcast, and the one-time publisher and editor of the now defunct not-for-profit indy 'zine called The Project for a New Mythology. I have a BA in creative writing from Kansas State University and an MFA in writing and poetics from Naropa University's Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. View all posts by jasonquinnmalott

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