Tonight I was supposed to be spending time with the third project but I could only think of the novel-in-progress, of one character in particular who keeps reinventing himself every time I want to write something new. All his ways of speaking, his voice the only thing I’m capable of writing at the moment. He never leaves me.
Better to leave words before they get you down. There was only one thing to do: I went into the night, went to find the things the corner of my eye might hold onto the longest, hoped some pattern would emerge so I could find my way back to the project/task at hand, tune into a voice I hadn’t been able to find for a few weeks.
After 30 minutes, a pattern: light and window, people living just beyond eyesight. The way dark leads you to memory and repetition. That’s when I heard the woman’s voice, the character that has evaded me for weeks. She was back. And she was thinking in memory, was living in them, had been lost in them. She was in the dark. It’s where she had been all along: I just hadn’t thought to look for her there. I realised in that moment that I don’t know this character half as well as I thought I did. My reasoning: if I did, I would’ve known where she’d been hiding…
I think about memory a lot, all the preoccupations I have with it when it comes to my own work. Always memory: either the loss of it or the repetition of one signifying moment over and over. Lately I have been trying to remember certain moments of my life but here’s nothing but blank space. Why is this? Why can’t I remember half my life at age sixteen but remember age five vividly?
Is there something about the third project that will help me unlock those blank spaces? Or am I just creatively tired and need a day off from writing? Sometimes I suspect I should only work on one project at a time…
The walk didn’t bring me any closer to a resolution for these question but a new path for the third project became clearer. And when I came home I reached for three books, opened pages randomly and somehow found passages that fit the pattern I’m trying to make:
“Often he would lie there the long night through, sleeping not a wink and just scrabbling for hours on the sofa. Or he would embark on the strenuous task of pushing an armchair over to the window and then crawling up to the sill, where propped on the chair he would lean against the window-panes, evidently inspired by some recollection of that sense of freedom that looking out of the window used to give him.”
The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka
I slid into my memories. Or rather, the memories (at least so it seemed to me) rose higher and higher in some space outside myself, until, having reached a certain level, they overflowed from that space into me, like water over the top of a weir.
Vertigo, W.G. Sebald
“Time,” says Jorge Luis Borges, “is the substance I am made of. Time is a river that carries me away, but I am the river.” Our movements, our actions, are extended in time, as are our perceptions, our thoughts, the contents of consciousness. We live in time, we organise time, we are time creatures through and through. But is the time we live in, or live by, continuous like Borge’s river? Or is it more comparable to a succession of discrete moments, like beads on a string?
The River of Consciousness, Oliver Sacks