On Writing and Reinventing

Abyss of Chaos currently weighs in at a respectable 101,902 words.  Anyone who knows me well won’t be suprised that I’ve managed to get so many words down.  In fact, you may be suprised that there aren’t more.  I recently had cause to pull out some old versions of the manuscript and thought the metaphor of a manuscript as a “living thing” is a good one as the word count does indeed seem to breathe.

My first draft of Abyss of Chaos, then Secrets of the Kebra Nagst, was 85, 940 words.  A later draft saw that number swell to 102,540.  But when someone is wondering what can be done when you’ve been unexpectedly mugged by a disability, I would probably point him/her to draft numero uno.  You see, Secrets was my escape.  It formed a foundation for my professional future.  It was a blazing light against the gathering darkness.  Also, my work was focused.  I didn’t know how the story would end – mine or the novel’s – so I doubled my efforts hoping that, in concluding the one, I could find answers for the other. 

Secrets of the Kebra Nagst was written in the span of about five months and was the first thing I’d written longer than a five-page paper.  (My essays were lucky to scrape by with a B+ by the way, so don’t ask me why I thought I’d be better as a novelist.  Seriously, don’t ask.)  Secrets of the Kebra Nagst  was originally conceived as a story within a story – a guy discovers he has Focal Dystonia and struggles to redefine himself as a writer.  Secrets was the work of my fictionalized self in that rendition.

Some may find my story inspiring.  Others will no doubt find this wholly unremarkable.  People overcome far greater adversity every day with little to no fanfare.  Also, look at American Idol.  American Idol has provided opportunity for all who aspire to become famous musicians, just as blogs and e-publishing have offered platforms for anyone to pose as writers.  Of course, the average would-be writer isn’t likely to embarrass before quite the same numbers as “Red,” a guy who out-eunuchs eunuchs, but you get my drift.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lNTCFBguXVY 

God, but nothing delights quite like listening to the truly awful.  Not necessarily a schadenfreude-esque pleasure, this is a pastime to be relished.  For the classical music lovers, I’ll point you to: http://www.billandellie.com/sounds/TrumpetBloopers.asp  There are a number of gems here ranging from the obviously terrible for all to enjoy, (Also Sprach Zarathustra,) to comparatively high brow awfulness for the true connoisseurs.  There was a time when this page was the only thing that got me to go to work day after day, such is the funny, but there was more to it than that.  By listening and laughing, I was also learning. 

I learned that, as a musician, I always felt the need to be better than I was.  I always felt the need to reach higher than I ever had any right, and though these afflictions are common among musicians, the lessons which can be learned from them are not:  Embrace the spirit of the fool.  Screw up.  Get laughed at.  Laugh at yourself.  Make mistakes.  Make them, and learn from them.  You can’t really “level up” without mistakes.  Also, the harder you try to not make mistakes…well, you know what happens. 

This is such a tough lesson when you’re an “expert,” but it’s so much more apparent to me looking back.  Also, it is apparent to me looking forward.  In writing, I have no worries about mistakes.  I barely know what sort of mistakes I can make anyway, and though I strive to be a polished writer, it simply doesn’t hurt when I’m not.  Perhaps armed with my “former” mastery I can apply these lessons for greater success the second time around.