As a response to the Coronavirus (but not necessarily a wise one), I turned to Boccaccio’s Decameron – 100 tales told by rich kids fleeing from the Black Death of 1348 in Florence. Why not read them, I blogged, and went to add, why not write them, or at least your own?
Of course, having made the suggestion it wasn’t long before I nagged myself into following it, so since March 23rd I’ve been posting on the blog one story each day. The plan is to post one hundred of them. They’re not all new stories, though some are, and I found myself looking through files that stretch back to before the millennium.
Mission creep is a common phenomenon. Whatever we set out to do there’s always a chance it will morph into doing something ever so slightly different. In this case, the creep was towards retrospection. Because of the date I suppose, 2020, I’ve always thought of this year as The Year of Perfect Hindsight. It’s also my 70th, which perhaps tosses a pennyweight into the scales. So retrospection was always on the cards.
Trawling back through those hundreds of stories, looking at the ones that were never published, often never even submitted anywhere was a curious experience. With some it was like meeting old friends after a gap of decades. With others it was like meeting strangers. In some cases I was driven to make corrections; to see answers to problems that at the time of writing I had been unable to find. In some cases I tidied up a bit, or gave the story a polish. In some I left them just the way they were, warts and all. There can be an integrity in a flawed story, like the beauty in an asymmetric face.
That mission creep had also something to do with a question that’s been on my mind for a couple of years now. That is the question of when one should quit; of when one can quit. My writing buddy Kurt Tidmore, quoting someone I think, tells me that ‘you ain’t beaten till you quit’, and I sometimes turn that around to ‘you doan quit till yore beaten’, but there’s also the idea of ‘quittin’ when yore done’.
One alarming feature of the exercise, reading all those old, forgotten tales, is that despite years of striving to learn how to do it better, I still like some of them just as much as and maybe more than some of the ones I’m writing today.
Mike’s blog is at www.Bhdandme.wordpress.com/