I have just started writing fiction. I may have something to show you in a few months, or not. At the moment, the “or not” scenario seems more likely as writing fiction is proving to be a very slippery beast. And I though non-fiction was tough. The problem seems to be somewhere in the output section in my brain.In my head what I am saying sounds brilliant. It’s coherent, it’s witty, it’s insightful, it’s powerful. On paper, it’s a garbled mess.
This is nothing new. In my English A-level class, the teacher asked the class what Eliot was trying to achieve in Rhapsody on a Windy Night.¹ Up went my hand because finally I knew the answer to something and I was determined to show it. My school history had been a long and painful experience of me answering questions, being told I was wrong, and then listening to the next child give the same answer as me but being told they were correct. “But that’s what I meant” was my silent battle cry throughout my education.
Anyway, clearly and confidently I explained what Eliot was on about. Silence. Although the puzzled looks from the teacher and fellow students were quite loud. Then the girl behind me put her hand up and said “What I think Liz meant was this” and proceeded to say the same thing that I had just said, but using different words. She then asked me if she had correctly understood me. In fairness, I thought she had missed a few points but I was feeling once more mortified and humiliated, and just wanted to slope off and die. But the teacher looked at me and asked if that’s what I meant and then proceeded to compliment me and point out to the class how I was right. Until that point, we hadn’t been friends but when you find someone that gets you, don’t let go of them. She’s been my best friend ever since no matter how hard she may have tried to shake me off.
In fact re-telling this tale has left me unsatisfied and I have re-written it several times to try to get it close to the story in my head.
So translation doesn’t seem to work and I’ve begun to wonder if sometimes we think in ideas and pictures rather than sentences. We think they are sentences but as our hand or mouth starts to emit them they become a big pile of spew. When we think about something that is blue, for example, we see blue, we don’t see the four letters B.L.U.E. Maybe when we are thinking about what to write next, what we are seeing / hearing in our brain as words, just aren’t translating properly to a structured sentence. Well they certainly aren’t for me!
However, this is my medium. I may be a bit of a Jackson Pollack when it comes to writing but hopefully, I’ll get a bit better and I’ll find a few more of you that get me.