“I suppose you come to know yourself as much by what you throw away as what you keep and at times it is appalling.”
- Flannery O’Connor
I spend a few days playing Schubert’s “Great” Symphony, enjoying the rehearsals, the discoveries of new ways to play it – phrasing, tempo, dynamics, articulation - but always at the side of my mind lurks my nearly-finished short story. The rehearsals end; I pack up my viola and rush home, enjoying the crunch beneath my feet through the fading maple leaves on the sidewalk. The fall colours are not so striking this year; it’s been a bit of a disappointment.
Between rehearsals and concerts and laundry and wondering what’s for supper, during these cool days of autumn I find myself restless and hungry for the written word. I go back and forth between Flannery O’Connor’s collected letters and one of her short stories, fascinated to see her own struggle unfold as she decides how toend it. That she can discard such a fantastic arrangement of words and images practically knocks me off my chair. But she does it for the story, and finds another ending, the right one.
Once again I pick up my manuscript. Think about the ending, and how I might strengthen it. Friend M‘s questions have been my constant companions, and it’s not lost on me that in this case “quest” and “questions” are uncomfortably close. I add a word here, a nuance there, put in a few commas and take them out again. On the bus ride to an out-of-town concert, another Friend M gives it a read. She, too, has questions. More Schubert that evening; more thinking during the bus ride home.
Once I’ve grown tired of pushing the commas around, I’ll bundle the story up and send it out into the wider world. But not yet.