I finished the new book a few weeks back. It’s nothing epic, just another short book of poems. Not like I completed the great Canadian novel or anything. Regardless, I usually bound down to my local book-printing location with a fever of anticipation gripping my entire body; because a new book is a new step, and when I lay digits on it all I can think is that I am the greatest human being alive, and that everyone is going to know all about my genius once they get this piece of literature shoved down their throat. Egotistical? A tad, but you have to be proud of something that started its life as a post-it note you scribbled an opening line on.
However, the feeling that gripped me this time was not screaming euphoria, but a resounding, “meh.” It’s not that the book looked like shit; it looked perfectly serviceable and the publishing folks had done good work. There was just something, “off” about it; it didn’t blow my hair back like the other books I had done. Something was missing, and I had no idea what it was. So, the proof got alligator clipped to the manuscripts that had spawned it, and I chucked it out of sight, because looking at it bummed me out and napalmed my brain. There was a way to fix it and to make it into something I wanted to put out, but I was at a loss as to what direction that way was. There was no point in putting out something mildly serviceable that had nothing wrong with it, when I knew that deep inside my head was a better idea.
So I went into a bit of a tailspin mentally. Thankfully, I had taken some time off work, and could stare down this problem every waking second of my life!
The first solution I arrived upon was to completely ignore the work. I started typing up something else, something new, and threw myself into that in the hopes that I would either completely forget about Failure Nightmare Not Good Enough Book From Hell, or I would manage to jog something loose from the idea tree through the act of typing for four hours a day. This worked only to build a whole new project that I now have to stress over, and did nothing to solve the problems I had with the old project.
I considered hitting the road: Prague, London, or Berlin. But part of me felt that doing so would have been running away from the problem, and that if I did think of a solution over a morning espresso in some distant corner of the world, then I would be too far away from the desk to do anything about it, and the saving idea would be lost, and the book doomed. So I stayed put, wrote other poems about being wayward, and tried to think a solution out of thin air.
I drank a lot of coffee everyday, helped my brother write an essay about a Thomas King short story, and went and visited my parents. It was on the second visit to Nanaimo to see them and my brother that something finally kicked loose. It was 3:42 AM, and I was sitting on the couch, curled under some blankets, listening to Dylan outtakes and trying to think of either a reason to stay up, or a reason to go to sleep. Right then, an idea shot out of the blue that completely fixed the whole direction of the book I was stuck on. Sure, I’d have to rewrite half of it, scrap the cover, and think of a way to have pages appear upside down, but fuck worrying about that, I had an idea that would save the work, better it, and make it interesting enough and strong enough that I’d want to release it to the world.
Okay, so that’s great and all, but what did I do to jog that idea out? Where did it come from? Was it something I read? Some random thought? A long enough break from my job? A long enough break from the book itself? How is it that I was stumped on this problem for two weeks, lost in a mire of circular misery, pissed off that I wanted something that had no shape or form or definition, and suddenly redeemed from something that fell completely out of the sky?
I took the bus back home the next day and dove into this new idea, beyond happy to hit the keys.
Even so, there’s a lurking misery in the back of my mind about how this solution came about; it wasn’t there and then it was, without provocation. I’m glad it happened, I just wish that it hadn’t taken its sweet time sauntering down the hallways of my mind in a bathrobe, preening in front of the mirror, doing its hair and makeup, picking out an outfit, and making sure it had the right accessories picked out before it jumped out of the subconscious.
Ideas can be assholes sometimes.