So, yesterday, while not having internet and feeling my lowest, I set myself to parsing through the paperwork I've been accumulating all my life. This meant digging through four office crates of material to decide what I need to keep. This is material that's been carefully preserved in my storeroom, unseen, for nearly eight years. Here is the result:
|This is what 10,000 hours of writing looks like.|
This is all junk. It wasn't around the time that I started my blog but it is now. This immense pile of paper is all full of writing, most of it handwriting, produced hour after hour since I was about 22. That's when I did my last purge - a purge I swore then that I'd never do again. But I'm not the same person, 30 years later. I read through hours of this material yesterday and I have no good feeling about it at all.
If there is a story here that deserves telling, I would rather write it from scratch, from my own head, that be affected by what a former me tried to write.
Some people get all creeped out by the thought that as our cells replace themselves, our entire bodies are steadily replaced until none that were there ten years ago have survived. Does this not make us a different person? This has become a popular internet meme.
I have no doubt about it. The material in the image above was written by somebody else. That much is obvious to me. I have a dim memory of the material but no memory whatsoever of actually doing the writing. With most of the short stories that I wrote in the above, I could not remember the ending or remember the point of the story. I can see now why some of this content didn't have the impact I imagined it would have. Because it is just bad writing.
I see it as practice. Lots and lots of practice. Writing sentence after sentence, not because the sentences meant anything but because eventually I would learn how to write a sentence properly. Not that I understood that at the time. At the time, I wrote under the delusion that I was producing content. I continue to write under the delusion that I am producing content.
The delusion is what makes art possible. The confidence that we possess that enables us to THINK we're doing earth shaking things when in fact we're just creating a lot of waste paper that will need to be thrown out someday - when we have grown enough to realize that it has to be.
This is why we cannot live in the present. The present is shit. Yes, I know I'm writing from a bad place just now, pulling my life apart, packing it, throwing it out, broke, helpless to control my finances or my freedom, forced to return hat in hand again and again to others with nothing but my so-called 'value' to trade on, but I have the evidence right here in my living room. I had to write all that crap out one page at a time so that I could be the writer that I am now - but during the process, I was utterly deluded.
O Gentle Reader, you are too. You don't think you are, because the delusion is lovely and it sustains us, but in fact everything you're doing right now for your game world and your campaign is shit from the perspective of the other you who will look at it ten years from now. You can choose, at that time, to look back on all this by embracing the fantasy that it was all beautiful and needs to be kept perfectly preserved in order to sustain that beauty . . . but if the day comes that your survival brings it into question, you'll burn it all down because, in the end, 99% of it did not matter.
There are a few things I kept. Some small bits and pieces. Some of that is going to make it onto this blog. I found some old dragon magazines and other booklets I thought were lost; I found my Gamma World rules though what the hell I'll ever do with those, I don't know. Everything else is going in the trash - or perhaps I'll burn it in my fireplace in a ritual sacrifice.
Hmf. I found some pictures that I took with a girl that I was in love with 34 years ago. Some decidedly questionable pictures, in a package in a folder that I'm sure I have not opened since, oh, about 2001. Funny. I so loved her. I don't imagine she'd be very happy to know those pictures are out here in the universe - but I won't show them and, anyway, no one would recognize her, I'm sure. And no, I'm not burning them. I can't. They bring a tear to my eye.
Yet it is good that we let the old part of ourselves die. It is good that we kill the child that used to reside in ourselves because it lets the new child breathe and discover new things. If we hang on to all that love for things we had in the past it will eventually suffocate all the things we have the potential to love in the future. Some things, it's easy to do that. Some things are not. Those who do not do the best they can, however, end up living so deeply in the past that they hate everything about the present - and they have no future.
Just now, I have to have a future or all this present delusion (the post I'm writing right now) is for naught. In the meantime, some of the past will have to burn. I don't have a choice about that. I'm leaving this place, this room where I'm writing, and I'll never be able to come back here again. That's how it is. I'll never be the person who wrote all those words in that pile above again. Today, I'm writing different words. In the future, I'll write different words still. That isn't living in the present. That's just breathing.
Hope is living. Hope waits for tomorrow.