I was considering posting another Completely Random Crap Teaser today, but then Cindy Pon brought up the movie Bright Star, which she saw recently. That got me thinking of John Keats, dead so young, and that in turn made me think about the very idea of my Random Crap folder, from which spring all these Random Crap Teasers.
Keats was the one who put forth the idea of Negative Capability, which entails people being able to accept and embrace the fact that not everything can be resolved. The ability to exist comfortably in the presence of uncertainty and the unknowable.
That is at the heart of my Random Crap folder. It is a collection of ideas that bows before pragmatic reality: they cannot all be written. When I put a story file into the Random Crap folder, I acknowledge that in all likelihood I will never finish it. For every idea plucked out of the folder and written to some form of completion, another dozen have crawled into that dark cavern to languish, perhaps never to see the light of day again.
I am okay with that. It’s the nature of writing. If I dropped dead today, killed by boredom at a departmental meeting, I would never get to work on those ideas. I would never do final revisions on THIRTEEN. I would never finish a first draft of HORNBEAM. I would never find out why Axyl Witt has a daughter named Ninja.
Are you okay with that? When you read my Random Crap Teasers, does it trouble you to know that they’re scraps of some larger work that only exists in my brain? Do you lie awake at night worrying about the stories in your Random Crap folder? Do you try to imagine what would happen if you died before finishing your magnum opus?
Keats opined that a person who possessed Negative Capability was a “Man of Achievement,” but I suspect it’s just a matter of type. There are people who require resolution and people who don’t. Some people are okay with books that end uncertainly. Others prefer that all the questions be tied up in the last chapter. Different genres even cater to that dichotomy. Those who like all the ends tied up perhaps prefer murder mysteries and romances. Those of us who don’t perhaps prefer literary or oddball books not easily classified.
As for the writers who die before they complete the next book in a series, you can find a glaring absence of Negative Capability in the people they leave behind. Robert Jordan, JRR Tolkien, and Douglas Adams have all been raised from the dead to assuage the readers who don’t hold with Negative Capability. (And more likely to satisfy the publishers who own the rights.)
As for me, I would have to decline. Even if offered a posthumous sequel to such beloved and ambiguously-ended books as Invisible Man and Maurice, I would prefer to embrace my Negative Capability.
How about you?