Bogey and Me

in the fogI was deep in a digital funk yesterday. 

I’d created a Word document, which, after closing, I couldn’t reopen.  The file extension was beyond the ability of my Word program to open.  How the heck does that happen?  

Two hour’s work down the e-drain.

With a debilitating feeling of being hard-done-by, I donned my trenchcoat and went for a walk in the fog. 

A speech about “The Advantages of Adversity”, that’s what I’d lost.  How ironic!  All my first thoughts, my raw material, memories, facts, connections, a web of meaning—all vanished in the e-ether.  

Fresh air usually revives me, but on this especially funky day, every step marched me deeper into despair.  I’m going on a retreat, I thought.  Deep country, unplugged, that’s what I need. Since I’m a digital idiot, this kind of funk overtakes me not infrequently.  Uphill I trudged under a canopy of spruce into the foothills of Mordor, trudge, trudge, trudge… 

I enjoy climbing.  Peaked cap pulled down so that I can’t see the slope, I perceive the road as level.  It’s a little mental trick that never fails to thrill me. 

Unable to reference the incline, there is no hill, no hill working against me.  My organizm is working harder to walk, yes, but there is no hill trying to defeat me, no antagonism, no psychology of struggle, just the indisputable facts of physics.  It never fails, I feel quite unlike myself, as if I were on Jupiter under the influence of a more powerful gravity field. 

Moving about on strange planets takes me out of myself.

Suddenly, a thought out of nowhere: “The rewrite will be better.” 

Rewrites are always better. 

What just happened?  I knew immediately what had happened because I’ve been exploring it on this blog for years—our belief systems.  Good things happen when our “B.S.” outlives its usefulness.  My belief system (victim mentality) had been left behind at the bottom of the hill. 

I didn’t need it on Jupiter.

Wow—self-pity was weighing on me like an evil spell, which is what belief systems are.  They are strategies, structures, rules, biases, attitudes, fears, all the necessary limits by which we negotiate this gloriously superficial life on planet Earth.  When I shed the B.S., I became available to the truth:

My rewrite will be better.

Fictional protagonists, same thing. 

The best fictional characters are cursed with belief systems that are not so easily jettisoned.  The degree to which they hold fast determines the intensity of the drama.  Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca.  Listen to him: “I stick my neck out for nobody.” 

That’s the screenwriter telling us what every reader needs to know at the outset of a story—what’s the hero’s belief system? 

With that pitiful attitude, Bogey’s trajectory is set.  Events will conspire to undo his belief system.  Bogey will eat his words or we’ll demand our money back. 

Sure enough, the love of his life (Ingrid Bergman) shows up and ushers Bogey to the depths of self-loathing.  Remember the scene where she pulls a gun on him to get the letters of transit to America.  He says, “Go ahead, shoot. You’ll be doing me a favour.” 

He doesn’t care if he lives or dies.  Now he can jettison his belief system.  What good is a belief system if you’re on death’s doormat?  Ilsa notices him waking up, lightening up.  Now she’s in his arms.  Look at Bogey, he looks a little lost, but now it’s all flooding back, the noble guy he was at the start of the war.  You can see it in his eyes.  He’s catching a glimpse of the truth, who he really is. 

He’s rewriting his script.

The rewrite will be better! 

As we know, Bogey sticks his neck out as far as a neck can go.  He shoots Major Strasser, sacrifices his one true love, orders her to escape Casablanca with her husband so together they might bolster the Resistance against Hitler. 

Bogart in fogAnd, look… there goes Bogart in his trenchcoat, walking into the fog, a living martyr.

Time for me now to man-up and rewrite this speech. 

(Btw… what the heck is a “docx” file?  Is it, like, some kind of curse?)

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  1. Sarah says

    In the joy of serendipity your timely post. My protagonist is on the brink of the black hole in which assumptions vaporize, and these sentences on the edge proving a tougher write than I ever imagined. Your hat countering slope – what an outstanding metaphor to carry one through the steep terrain of re-writing.
    Thanks PJ!

  2. says

    i read this on my phone last night and knew it’d be hard to post a comment with a clear mind, so made a point to get back here this morning 😉

    at first, reading about the file opening/lost problem, i assumed i would try to comment that other text processors around could probably open the file, so all was not lost –

    but then i realized where your story was really going, and thought it’s an alliteration of many prior posts, the first hand report, and the way it was told, opened up what you’ve been saying a little clearer –

    more significantly, clearer enough so i could see the road you were on –

    so for your persistance and patience, i thank you 😉

    best wishes pj!

  3. says

    Adan… it was a “late blooming” post, wasn’t it? I wasn’t sure I should publish it, but what the heck. I’m glad you persisted. And I don’t think I’m finished with Casablanca yet. I find it instructive of good fiction, so I hope further references don’t put you off. Cheers!

  4. says

    Sarah… hey, good eye/mind/imagination… I hadn’t thought of my trek across “Jupiter” as being a helpful metaphor for the writer in process. I’ll think on’t further. Say buenos dias to the Mazatlan morning for me. Saludos!

  5. says

    A docx file wings its way around your neck while you sleep, with its tiny redhot fangs bared. Watch out of the corner of your eyes, you can see them better.

    What a luscious re-write this was, P.J, I emitted an ‘aw’ at one stage, an ‘aha’ at another and you even evinced a laugh out of me (& we all know how difficult that is). Well done!

    ‘Good things happen when our “B.S.” outlives its usefulness.’ That, there, is one pithy quote (I shall add this one to my Great Quotes file). It’s one of those facts in life that I consider truer than true, if you know what I mean. I like the way you connect these basic essential eternal facts about life to our fiction, helping me to see what it is about story that we are wired to respond to and to love, and more importantly, to remember. We remember the stories that move us the most.

    And don’t be offended, but I take great heart in your ‘techno-nottery’ P.J, because now I know we can be pals.

  6. says

    Yvette… yes, I was so delighted when I realized that “belief system” could be reduced to “B.S.” And yet I am careful to acknowledge the necessity of our egos for navigating our everydays. So let us called it our “blessed B.S.” I will not, however, be adding that qualifier to MicroSoftWord.

  7. says

    Ha ha, you made me laugh again. :-)
    Yes, I’ll raise an imaginary toast with you to the importance of “Blessed B.S” in our lives, and to the on-going investigation into what’s important and what’s not.

  8. says

    EXCELLENT post, Sir Reece: one I should print, enlarge to poster size and attach to the front of my head so that’s all I can see whenever I face front, lol. Love your point and the Bogey example. The shot in the arm I needed today.

    As per a docx file, I can help you! ‘Docx’ is the newer format Word 2007 (or 2010) uses to save your doc–as in document (not doctor ;)). In Word 2003 and earlier the file was saved as a ‘doc’ file.

    Assuming you’d already named the file and done some background saving, you may be able to retrieve your file. You can start by putting part of the file name in the ‘search’ box at the very bottom of the START menu (when you left-click it, as if you were going to open up any program on your computer). Hit ENTER and see if it shows your file.

    Email me. Let me know which Windows system (i.e., Seven, XP, etc) and I’ll do what I can to walk you through some fairly easy steps to find it.

    Good luck!

    Email me. Chances

  9. Janet Stapleton says

    Thank you Reece! For the chuckle and for the ‘aah!’ moment when I (once again) realized that I can drop my B. S. at any time and see things differently. I’m afraid I would have spent a good hour or more trying to retrieve that first draft – and may have been successful. I’m usually determined to conquer a computer glitch before deciding on an alternative approach. What a relief! Now to find a hill around here…

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