Don’t know about you, but I am not a great one for being guided by metaphor in life—not consciously, at any rate. However, a recent minor event that has provoked some thinking about its useful symbolism, for writing and perhaps for life.
A wall in my house (yes, as mundane as that) has been a sore spot for a few years now. I have patched it up, painted it some on-trend deep blue in an artisanal paint, pretended the radiator that the wall hosted was not a rusting dust magnet. But the day came when I could gloss over it no longer. I stumped up some few hundred pounds of my meagre savings to have it repaired. Money I would rather have spent on our summer holiday. This involved it being stripped right back to brick, the crumbly plaster with its veneer of posh paint, rotten skirting board, shonky old radiator and all. Then replaced with the new and improved.
I have also recently completed the first full draft of a book, for which I fleshed out the initial ‘blocking’ draft with the complete plot, minor characters, period detail, speech, and description. But something is not right. There is a fault in the plot maybe, the characters’ motives; it doesn’t quite make sense. It may be too much emphasis on setting over character. Or a couple of the dialogue-heavy scenes that are too expository, imbalanced. Only I am not quite sure yet which element is wrong.
So I will strip back the content to the core, write out the bones of the plot, the motives, identify what is wrong that lies beneath the gloss of colour, detail, and imagery. It may be that I do not need to start all over again, brick by brick, but that taking it back to its essential structure will be enough. We’ll see. It will take time. Time I would rather have spent on the next draft.
Can I do this with life, too? I have seen the phrase ‘living life on purpose’ used by psychologists. Rather than, I guess, living life by accident, finding you have been going along with circumstance that once suited you but no longer do so, living according to past habits formed rather than conscious decisions about the present.
I sense, I know, changes are needed. As a starting point to redefinition, I need to peel back the rotten layers—the job situation gone sour, the relationships become rote… to find fundamental meaning and motivation within.
I wish this were as easy as picking a new colour for my wall.