I paid my money didn’t I? I should be able to take my choice then? No, not when NYC Midnight have their flash fiction competition.
One thousand carefully chosen words, a genre, a scene and an object chosen at random. Forty Eight hours to write it.
And on Saturday 15th July, the email arrived. Genre: Ghost Story, Scene: A Basement, Object: A Tattoo Machine.
I had to find out what a tattoo machine is, didn’t I? That was the easy part. A quick Google search and I found one.
I even listened to recordings of tattoo machines. Which reminded me of the dentist’s drill. That at least ended up in the story. But after listening to that, there was no way I was going to be inked in the name of research.
But me? A ghost story? My first reaction was: I haven’t written any. I was wrong. I’ve written two. One fact. One fiction. Still I researched my genre. And read some ghost stories, some great, some indifferent. And brought to mind my secret love of Edgar Allan Poe.
But a basement. I really don’t know what to do in a basement…Self doubt occurred early. But I persisted…
I scrabbled and scrambled for thoughts. Then came the flood of nefarious ghost-like events. I wrote them out. Then…
I revised what I had written. And threw it all away. Somewhere, somebody is looking at my lost notes and saying, “I wouldn’t write that either.”
Then the premise arrived. The idea was a ghost requesting permission…But I won’t add to that otherwise it would spoil the story.
And I wrote it. And I was pleased with it. But there was a problem…
The rewriting. The last time I wrote a short story (The Great Blow), I went on a re-writing frenzy. Eight or nine rewrites until I could take it no more.
This story (called Ghost Tattoo) was rewritten about four or five times. I only realised it when I posted it on the competition forum. Some of the feedback was similar. And when I read the story, I realised they were right. A few more rewrites…Still when I receive the judge’s feedback, I will rewrite it. And post it. And learn my lesson. Otherwise I will have to take the test again!
If money is the measure of success, as a short story writer and poet, I have little chance.
I now know I’m borrowing a talent as it were, but that doesn’t explain my motivation to write. Especially when the story or poem is demanding to be written.
Why do I do this?
And she speaks for me. I was joyfully surprised by the feedback I received for the Great Blow. I wrote a poem called The Unravelled Heart , then attended a meetup. Two people had read it and they understood.
But the first time I really found out why I write occurred when I wrote a story called Medicine Woman. A few days after publishing it, I received an email containing the French phrase, “On Ne Peut Sauver Celle Qui Ne Veut L’etre.” My school French could not suffice and I googled the phrase and also checked with my French teacher friend.
The phrase meant, “One cannot help those who cannot help (themselves).” Which is what the story really was about. Which is why I really wrote it.
Which is why i write.
Bleed out drop by drop,
Breathe out gasp by gasp,
Lose time tick for tock,
And love beat by beat.
Each day darkens upon dark,
Each touch lessens its loss,
I watched my heart disappear,
Shrivelled and dried by fear.
Push me away, slap my face,
Shove me to the wall, that’s my place,
Punch my chest, kick my head,
I fend off the blow. And now I’m dead.
For you’ve found the impetus enough for you,
Though I’ve stopped you, you take your revenge,
I see it double inside you as i double up too,
For many are the offences I could avenge.
I could easily kindle that evil in me,
Take hold of your rage and reciprocate,
Your anger as mine, now pure and clear,
But surrendered to the void of fear.
I know and see that you’ve suffered,
I’ve been racked by your loss unsalved,
If I could, I would offer you comfort,
But I found the healer was killed by the cure.
And now with my heart spent,
I am poured out and empty,
All I have left are questions
To ask of you, one or two, if I may?
Will you let this dissolve you?
As you enjoy the hurt cast on others too,
Now, my question is better said:
Would total revenge be a comfort to you?
Or would it, a second one, if I may ask,
Be a false cure to a pain eternal,
An acid that melts a dying heart,
And bile that burns your mouth?
Perhaps I may suggest an answer,
Diffcult though it may yet be.
A hope perhaps still shrouded
But it may be happening to me.
Out beyond the passing pain,
Lies a desert now watered by rain,
And in it an oasis of comfort and healing,
Where you’ll rest and regain your healing.
And there you will rest and be restored,
There you’ll receive a power conferred,
There you’ll learn to love your suffering,
And that will be the superpower.
The worst doubt drives my fear Do I really have any light to hold? When all I have will disappear Once all I am and was grows cold. When that light I carry dies out Another question I'll ask with more doubt Will I leave the world dark once I go Or bathe it briefly in an afterglow? It's unknown. I may be mistaken. I may be given a gift more bright That shines through the dark taken And live as an everlasting light.
But what I found fascinating were some of the exhibits of the Embassy of the Real including the dirigible on the left.
But then I walked through pendulums. Created by William Forsythe, Nowhere and Everywhere At the Same Time, a n open factory floor was filled with suspended plumb bobs (pendulums) slowly swinging from fishing lines. Mostly in the same direction and mostly in unison.
Which sounded innocuous at first and then looked foreboding upon second thought : I didn’t really want to be hit by those things.
Despite my misgivings, I nodded to the attendant and entered the open space. I really felt that I would spend the next few minutes or so dodging, ducking and weaving. But I was wrong.
Sometimes after all one’s efforts, everything looks like it’s turning out for the worst.
But then the rain clears, and the moment is right.
I arrived on time. But at the wrong venue. The NGV has one site in St Kilda Road and another at Federation Square.
I took the stairs and heard not a note of music or talk. I backtracked to reception and was vectored to the NGV at Federation Square.
I picked my way through Sunday afternoon walkers then ascended to the right floor. Then I was turned away as the venue was full. Luckily, as there were people were coming and going so in the end I was motioned through.
And I witnessed the final moments of a musical interview. There was Megan Washington answering rather complex interview questions with great dexterity. Then singing and playing beautifully and thoughtfully.
It was then I found what I was looking for. Megan Washington was talking about the artist’s eternal problem of identity and being unable to write. Her first wisdom was saying that she was not her art.
Her second wisdom was not to disdain the idleness of being unable to write (See also Leisure : The Basis of Culture). Rather she described it as a phase of “soaking the
beans” : a waiting period until you return to being creative and energised.
Meantime, I’m looking for beans….
Quite a while ago, I was at Questacon (The National Science and Technology Centre).
There is almost an obsession with being loved unselfishly.
Out there is the perfect person who will supply your needs forever.
Your mission impossible is to find that person, convince them to love you and you will be happy forever.
And you will love them back, but secondly.
Unfortunately, this love is the one that makes the world go round.
And yet there is no freedom in this love, only obligation.
For me, I thought that if I loved someone unselfishly they would love me back unselfishly.
I was wrong. I found that out the hard way.
Such unselfish love is still obligation: it is still a deal: it is love transactional.
Now I have created a contradiction. But there is an alternative. It is not for everyone though….
Perhaps this story might throw some light on the dilemma. I came across this Sufi story about a week after my second marriage failed:
“A lover came to the dwelling of the Beloved and asked to be admitted.
‘Who is there?’ the Beloved asked.
‘I am here’, the lover answered.
The Beloved refused to admit the lover. After wandering in grief and longing for years, the lover returned to the Beloved and begged to be admitted.
‘Who is there?’, the Beloved asked.
‘You alone are there’, the lover responded.
The door opened.”
I was deeply moved by this story. Instantly I knew its meaning. As I wrote this I drew even more insight from it.
The lover cannot be selfish: all grief is gone.
The lover cannot be obligated: he or she is free from everything that would thwart unselfish love.
The lover is free to love.
For me I have some way to go.