She brought him back to life. Not the usual chest pumping, sternum cracking, lip-to-lip resuscitation, instead she was kind and caring to him as other women had not or perhaps before he had no ability or experience to recognise and accept it. He began to trust and to feel again; to come from the shadows he knew well into the light which was unfamiliar and frightening.
She loved him in her way and he mistook this, unaccustomed as he was to friendship and compassion. He fell in love with her and told her so.
This time she could not save him.
I read an article which used rational choice theory within economics to categorise those not in a relationship as being ‘romantically unemployed’. It referred specifically to the construction of the algorithms which underpin online dating sites and the matching of singletons to become couples.
Okay, at one level this is funny. Not ‘single’ or ‘looking’ or ‘not interested’ or’ perfectly happy with my dog, thank you’ or whatever, but unemployed. Romantically unemployed.
Dig a little deeper and it is unfunny. Unemployed equals ‘unproductive’ in free market thinking; that is, not contributing to society or the national economy. In the nasty jargon of the Australian government, these unemployed are ‘leaners, not lifters’ who sponge off the rest of society.
The romantically unemployed? Do they need to apply like the labour market unemployed for a position/date forty times per month to avoid being pariahs on the economy? Should they be expected to travel far and wide searching for a date/position? Should they be doing productive local community work/dating locals in order not to be socially unacceptable?
At least they receive no government benefits for being romantically unemployed and will not live in constant fear of having benefits reduced or removed to ‘encourage’ them back into romantic entanglement.
Should they be interviewed by government officials every month to check that they are ‘genuine romantically unemployed’ and not simply leaners who have set their romantic standards too high to avoid the perils of the dating pool and the joys of coupledom? Being unrealistic and not genuine in their quest? Not prepared to accept ‘good enough’ or NQR?
What about the free market obsession with ‘efficiency dividends’, which simply means doing more with less? How could this be targeted at the slack ‘romantically unemployed’? Surely there is room for more efficient searching and dating?
Surely a free market can make revenue from the ‘romantically unemployed’? Oh, that’s right. That is what online dating is all about and we are back at square one.
I’m pondering how we can refine this ‘romantically unemployed’ category; the unemployable, the long term, the unskilled, those in need of skills upgrading and further training?
All very funny and all very sad. And guess what? Everything I have poked fun at here is already happening. Think of any absurdity these days and I guarantee it is out there somewhere.
No background setting. ‘Get on with it!’
No explanations, ‘show, not tell’.
Short sentences to make it easier for the reader.
Break up long paragraphs to make it easier for the reader.
Start mid-scene so that the reader is not bored and drops the book within 30 seconds.
We live in a digital age of short attention spans so get to the point and keep it simple and fast. Oops, sorry, too complicated Hilary Mantel and as for James Joyce, what’s that all about?
Only one distinctive speech signifier per character.
The plot must be ‘this and therefore this and therefore this’ so no digressions. Sorry, Laurence Sterne, you are out.
Avoid flashbacks and non-linear narratives. Gone, Woolf and Calvino.
‘Kill your darlings’ is the cry. Sorry to all writers who write elaborate, luxurious and expansive prose. Red pencils at the ready.
Stay ruthless; if it does not propel plot or character, if it is merely digression, out it goes. Sorry, Tolstoy, Gogol, Mann, Dostoevsky etc. [and do not use ‘etc’].
Lean and straightforward prose is the mantra. Sorry, Proust, out you go. Sorry, Thackeray, get a good editor. Sorry, Woolf, self-indulgent and lacking in plot and clear structure. Austen? You can stay.
Out the door with the rest of you.
Hemingway? Ideal, albeit spawning countless bad imitations and we need to separate the author from the writing; no problem, we celebrated the ‘death of the author’ decades ago.
And when all too often the critically and commercially successful novel breaks all these rules, we are told ‘ah well the exception proves the rule’ and we odd sagely [note unnecessary use of adverb].
Yes, it is all good advice and it helps prevent the self-absorbed, over-written, neglectful-of-audience stuff I was writing 12 months ago. Yes, it helps to train better writers in the same ways we can train people to be better athletes or dancers or guitarists. There is nothing mystical about writing [except for those authors who inspire awe and I ask ‘how do they do it?’] and rules are valuable: we have to know the rules and then know when to ignore or bend them.
Why this gentle rant? Maybe because I would love to hear/read a creative writer teacher to add the ‘and yet ….’ to these rules and to allow leeway, at least a little encouragement to ‘dare to be different’ to us wannabes.
They are only rules.
I was reluctant, but my friends kept telling me that I had to get out there, get in the game, join the million other hopefuls. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? So I agreed to give it a try despite my anxieties that I was too old for this sort of thing and had been to the trough a few too many times; better to put on my slippers and night cap, get a dog and close the blinds. But that has never been my style and, recalling the old adage that you should never die wondering and that remorse is better than regret, I let myself be persuaded.
It was scary and it was exciting getting to know each other; the familiar tingle, the anticipation of our meetings, the world suddenly a brighter and happier place of colour, aromas, sound and sensation. A special connection with another! Sigh. Every poetic cliché of every trashy romantic novel.
She seemed to feel the same and that was wonderful.
After a couple of months, however, I could feel our connection slipping away. Sure, we liked each other, missed each other when we could not meet, but there was something lacking – the age old cry of lovers, no?
In the middle of the year we travelled together for two months and we had the closeness I craved. It did not last. Back in Australia I was ready to give up and she felt the same. It was simply not working and in my heart I knew it was my fault because I was withholding and not being my true self with her. I was playing a role and felt paralysed from acting differently. Nor was it all my fault; there was a guardedness in her, a core of secrets which she was not showing me.
I was losing her and I hated it. Hated my own inadequacies.
Knowing I had to change, I began to reveal more of myself: my hopes and fears, wants and needs, wounds and scars – the usual stuff. I began to find my own voice, becoming recognisable to myself and thus to others. Although she is cautious, I can feel her responding to me as I learn to trust and to share and to be ‘authentic’ [I know, all very new age]. Others do it, so why not me? How hard can it be? Don’t answer that, we know how hard it is to stop pretending and role playing and going through the motions and instead to be truly present and honest.
Early days and I have much left to learn. It is getting better.
Yes, it is our first anniversary.
One year since I began on WordPress in utter naivety. It has taken me a year to get a feel for what I want to do here and what I want to say; in short, to find my voice. Next I must take another deep breath and interact with the blogging community and not be only a passive reader and receiver; I could not do this unless I first found what I wanted to do with my blog.
She has been patient and accepting and you know, I think we’ll make it to our second anniversary!
Wish us luck!