At the present moment, I am in-between projects - - stories that I write. The in-between time when I was younger, say seventy was much shorter than it is now that I’m ninety years old. Then, in retrospect, ideas crowded each other and with a voice that only I heard, cried to be written. Now the opposite is true. I have to hunt for an idea that has a beginning, middle, and an ending that satisfies whatever creative inspiration I possess. More often than not, I latch on to a beginning that refuses to be developed into something more than it is. Or, I come up with a dramatic ending that resists my effort to tie it to a middle and a beginning that would make it a viable ending for the story.
When I’m in between my story projects, I have an unpleasant feeling of being untethered to the real world. I can and do become reticent and withdrawn. The feelings I have are similar to those I felt when I had “writer’s block,” which I imagine lies in wait for me and like a predatory animal, ready to spring and devour my creative efforts. This kind of paranoia is more destructive than constructive. And though I know this, I am helpless to control it. As a result of my helplessness, latching on to an idea that has the possibility of becoming a story in more psychologically painful that it was when I was younger. The in-between space is consequentially longer and deeper. It is a repository for countless what ifs and other skeletal middle and endings of stories that fell apart before they became part of the fictional entity.
In a few instances, I actually wrote the beginning of what I thought would be the opening of a story only to realize I couldn’t go further with it. The potential story was stillborn. But I’m not the only author who has had a similar, if not an identical experience. Mark Twain wrote a hundred and thirty pages of Huckleberry Finn and couldn’t go any further with it. He put it aside and returned to it several years later adding the shenanigans of Tom Sawyer in order to complete the novel. The addition isn’t anywhere near the insightful writing of the first hundred and thirty -eight pages. I am sure there must be other examples of literary grafting, but the one I chose to cite is probably the most well-known.
How do I climb out of that in-between space? I’m not able to give a viable answer. I am never sure it will happen. If I am “lucky,” then all the variables that make a story possible will come together in a way that will enable me to write the beginning, the middle and the ending of a story. It is chancy; but when it happens, the experience is magical. From what appears to be nothing, I will have created something - - a fictional reality.
Irving A. Greenfield’s novels have been published by St. Martin’s Press, Arbor House, Avon and several other publishers. His short stories appear in Amarillo Bay, Runaway Parade, Writing Tomorrow, The Raven's Perch, and several others. He has also been a sailor, soldier, college professor, and award-winning playwright. His most recent play, Banned in Bisbee was produced at ATA as an Off-OFF Broadway production.