Monday Writing Motivation: Like love, after the lovers have parted

 In Monday Motivation, Richard Beynon's blog, Tips for Writers

What’s your Monday Writing Motivation? And how does it fit in with paleontologists?

Palaeontologists have discovered, in the scrolls of rock that constitute a unique repository of ancient fossils called the Burgess Shale, in Canada, the remains of a 550 million-year-old jellyfish. The Cambrian Burgess Shale fossils were the subject of an engrossing book by Stephen Jay Gould called Wonderful Life, that I devoured twenty-five years ago, so I was drawn to the headline announcing this new discovery.

Now, jellyfish are very rarely preserved because, as a scientist working on the project pointed out, they are composed mostly of water. In fact, about 95 percent of a jellyfish is water. So the fragile, diaphanous membranes of the jellyfish have somehow to escape putrefaction and complete dissolution if they’re to achieve the immortality bestowed on them by fossilisation.

Writing is equally tenuous. We spin tales out of fancy and words, commit them to paper, or to the mysterious world of ones and zeros somewhere inside the subtle silicon of our computer chips (fossils, too, are composed at least partly of silicon, remember), and then trust that these will endure to delight readers down the years to come.

Will our words last 550 million years? Well, no, I think we can say with absolute certainty – although the chips might.

Perhaps this is just another fancy, or fantasy, but it sometimes seems to me that stories have a life beyond the page, or the computer chip. It’s as if, once composed, they continue on a trajectory through the subliminal spaces of a universal imagination, as insubstantial as those ancient jellyfish, composed mostly of matter that swiftly evaporates, but still, somehow, there.

Like music after the last note has been played. Like love, after the lovers have parted. Like a waterfall after the river has run dry.

With which insubstantial thoughts I leave you, dear reader, to contemplate the immortal words that you are in the process of composing.

Happy writing,



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