Kingsbrae 5.2
5 June 2017


Late last night, I opened Alistair Macleod’s book The Lost Salt Taste of Blood and I re-read the first story. I was soon dabbing my eyes with a tissue and blowing my nose.

This morning, I want to destroy everything I have written. I know I don’t possess the verbal and emotional genius of the great writers and I sense that I cannot write like them. Graduate school taught me to be passive, not active, and to write impersonally, choking every emotion when I write. Academia also taught me how to kiss and how to run away with my thirty silver pence. “Never challenge the status quo,” my professors told me. “Learn the rules and disobey them at your peril.”

But here, in this private space where I create and re-create, there are no rules. The enemy is not clear any more and the fight is not one of black against white. It is rather a choice between diminishing shades of grey, and all cats are grey in the gathering dark that storms against my closing mind. Should I destroy all my writing? I wouldn’t be the first to do so; nor would I be the last. And I won’t be the first or the last to destroy myself either. Intellectual, academic, and creative suicide: as total as the suicide of the flesh.

I carry on my back the names of those who have gone on before me as if they were a pile of heavy stones packed into a rucksack that I carry up a steep hill, day after day, only to find myself, next morning, starting at the bottom once again. But this is not the point: the point is that if I cannot write like the great writers, how can I write?

I think of Mikhail Bakhtin and his cronotopos, man’s dialog with his time and his place. I have no roots, no memories, and that is where my stories must start: in the loss of self, the loss of place, the loss of everything. I was uprooted at an early age, soon lost my foundations, and only survival mattered.

I look at the first page of one of my manuscripts. My writing manifesto is clear before me: “And this is how I remember my childhood,” I read. “Flashes of fragmented memory frozen like those black and white publicity photos I saw as a child in the local cinema. If I hold the scene long enough in my mind, it flourishes and the figures speak and come back to life.”

I am aware of the words of T. S. Eliot that “every attempt / is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure / because one has only learnt to get the better of words / for the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which / one is no longer disposed to say it” (East Coker).

Are these stories an exercise in creativity or are they a remembrance of things past? How accurate is memory? Do we recall things just as they happened? Or do we weave new fancies? In other words, are my inner photographs real photographs or have they already been tinted and tainted by the heavy hand of creativity and falseness?

The truth is that I can no longer tell fact from fiction. Perhaps it was all a dream, a nightmare, rather, something that I just imagined. And perhaps every word of it is true.

I no longer know.

11 thoughts on “Apologia

  1. I refute your apologia. In the course of the history of writers, I see a thousand–a million–a legion of writers lined up to try their best to offer their art. We do not weigh one against the other. Instead, we test each writer, one by one, a book at a time, to see if they speak to us. Some do. (You do.) I concede some writer’s are god-like, some are great, and some are good. If you are #47000 of a million writer’s, do you burn your writing in despair? Or do you ask if something you’ve written has touched someone? Your writing has touched me. Chuck

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great comment, Chuck: thank you so much. I do have a writing manifesto: “Man’s dialog with his time and place” and I do have a writing method: snapshots in prose and thematic linkage in poetry. I am also a writer who reaches out, both with the written and with the spoken word. Alas, like many writers before me, I have passed through the stage of ‘wishing to destroy all that I have written’ and of ‘thinking my works useless”. As you well, know, I have neither destroyed myself nor my works, and I do not intend to do what other have undoubtedly done. In the words of Miguel de Unamuno, whose words you echo, “if I can reach out and touch someone …” If my writing has touched you, and people like you whom I admire and trust, then I am happy. Thank you.


    • I read Apologia to the group last night. We were talking about the difficulties we had with art and how sometimes we wanted to destroy our work. I thought it was appropriate. I have certainly torn up some pieces of writing. Usually though I keep them, rework them if possible, and sometimes se them for other purposes. The written word often has a function, even though it isn’t the one you first thought of. Also, of course, writing is a process as well as a product and we all learn from our mistakes.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh my, what places St. Andrews is taking you. They are probably places you have been before, only you haven’t. I, for one, am grateful for your nightmares, whether fact or fiction, because it is the dark stories that touch me. And of course you have the best of both worlds because you also live a dream of light and love and birds at the feeder to sing to you and show off their jewels. Thank you for sharing this adventure with us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Ana. Carlos and I did voice recording of Yellow Bird. Just click on the sound track. We intend dong some more over the next few days. That said, this is a fascinating into both the known and the unknown. We are a very well-blended group.


  3. Uff.Aliestair Macdeold,

    Mikhail Bakhtin etc were great writers.bt why r u laminating on your works.u r d symbol of new crearion school n r ressembling of new uniqe creative generation.good apologia.u r right n best at ur side.


  4. It is time to celebrate, not destroy. What is fact, after all, but fiction rooted in belief and held in place by perceived need to survive? Fiction ultimately becomes fact when stirred and ladled into bowls brimming with righteous indignation.

    I suspect that all great writers have enjoyed moments of exuberant desperation wanting to destroy all of their greatest works.

    Stay safe, Roger.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Indeed, they have, Victor, and some have actually done so, and destroyed themselves in the process. Alas, the destruction of oneself leads rather to forgetfulness and oblivion more than to the discovery of post-mortem genius, I am safe and well. As I have aid before, I may write from the dark, but I live in the light.


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