Thoughts of an Eaten Sun

through the mind of kyle tolle

Introducing The Mechanism Collection

I recently completed The Mechanism Collection. I’ve worked on this on-and-off (mostly off) for over four years, so I am excited to finally show them to others!

The Mechanism Collection is a creation myth.

The first three Mechanisms form the creation myth as first told through oral tradition. The Fourth Mechanism is a more recent addition to the collection.

But that’s about all I want to say here about the content itself. I want people to form their own opinions of the pieces and how they work together.

The main structure and form is there, but they may change a little bit going forward, since I’d like to incorporate feedback I receive from others. This means, if you have some thoughts, edits, or constructive criticism, I’d love to hear it! You’ll help to make the Collection better.

Feel free to hop over there now and read it. Below, I’ll describe a bit about where this idea came from.

The Idea Gained A Foothold

It began back in February 2008, if not earlier. Zach and I were in high school, and we created some music together under the name Of The Fourth Mechanism of Armament. What a sweet name, right?

It was a mouthful, so it got shortened to Of The Fourth Mechanism. A little later on, it was just Of The Fourth. That name would likely be impossible to find via search engine, but I still liked the ideas it evoked. He and I created parts of a couple songs, but that project didn’t really go anywhere. (Maybe we’ll revisit those songs some day…)

The idea of “The Fourth Mechanism” still stuck with me though. It sat and stewed in the back of my mind for a while, but I didn’t do anything with it. Nearly three years later, Zach sent me a piece he’d written. It was his take on Of The Fourth. Fantastic stuff, and that’s what finally got my gears into motion again.

About a month later, in early February 2011, I did some brainstorming on what my take on the Fourth Mechanism would be. It would be part of a collection. The sub-titles that each Mechanism now has are the original ones I came up with at that time.

I have some writings on paper, but I didn’t date them, so it’s hard to tell tell how much progress I made in that initial brainstorming. I likely fleshed out the first two Mechanisms a bit, but not much more.

The Languished Project

If I originally had the idea for these pieces in 2011, why did it take until 2015 for me to complete them? It’s not even a lengthy collection.

The ideas would sit for a while, until I’d get the motivation to work on them. And by that I mean I’d work on them for an evening or two, or maybe even a couple nights over a few weeks. But then the project would fall onto the back burner, and it’d be a year or more before I picked it up again.

That’s still not a ‘why’, is it? Let’s go with: procrastination, and fear of imperfection.

The ideas seemed perfectly formed in my head, but when I went to put those ideas onto paper, things didn’t play out so nice. And the act of writing these things took more effort than I’d expect. If the idea was so perfectly formed in my head, why did it take so much work and time and effort to get them out of my brain? Welcome to Real Life, Kyle.

These disappointments leeched at my creative motivation, and I’d have to wait for the memory of the disappointment to fade, and the motivation to resurface.

Infinite Recursion

Another tendency of mine is to come up the idea for a story, and then try to figure out the world in which this story takes place. What’s are the people like? What’s the setting that serves as the backdrop?

This leads me to think of what countries and cultures exist, and what the history of the world is. So I’d come up with an idea for a story to explain that - why the world is the way it is. Except this story also needs a backdrop and a history and a world, so I’d think on that some too.

You can see the trouble: you keep thinking up ideas for stories you want to write to explain the stories you want to write. This cyclical process is like infinite recursion in computer science, where the program never finishes computing. The function calls itself. Except that function call will also call itself again, and this goes on for infinity. Or until your computer runs out of memory. I’ll give you one guess as to which happens first.

Fortunately, my recursion didn’t continue indefinitely. I worked my way back from story, to history, to before-history, and, finally, to the story that explains how the world for these stories came to be.

(To be perfectly honest, calling them stories is a stretch. They’re more like a couple sentences of nebulous ideas, at most.)

Versions on Versions

As I mentioned before, there were long stretches of time between when I worked on these pieces. When I finally did pick them back up, I’d start off by brainstorming a bit, without looking at the existing stuff. I’d wind up with several, different versions.

Each bit would have elements I liked, so I worked to consolidate them all into large, combo drafts. And I’d re-work these in further drafts, using the existing text as the scaffolding, instead of creating yet-another version.

I liked that this approach led to some new and interesting ideas. But reconciling these individual drafts took a lot of time and effort, so I’m not sure I’d do this again.

Figuring It All Out

When I started out, I had some ideas for each piece, and how they’d tie together. But then I would work on one Mechanism at a time. Bringing one to life would help me better understand how they’d tie together. As each piece became a real thing, it influenced my perception of the collection.

The intent has always been, if I can recall correctly, to have the Fourth contrast the other three. But the details of how the contrast was manifest changed over time. Eventually, I just picked what felt rightest; what I was most interested in exploring. I’m happy with how it turned out, and I hope you’ll enjoy it as well.

The Motivation Train

Over the past year, I’ve worked on these pieces more than ever before. What changed?

The urge for them to exist and to be a thing, instead of flailing as a daydream, was a good kick in the ass. And I worked on them more incrementally, with some regularity. There were still downtimes, but I was able to merge some drafts and get into a rhythm and find a voice for the pieces. That’s particularly helpful. If you take too much time off, you have to find the voice again.

But I also started to take myself and the pieces less seriously. They didn’t have to be perfect. And that made them easier to work on. There’s certainly no such thing as perfect, particularly for a first draft.

The first draft sucks and is not at all what you want, but letting that draft exist in imperfect form is the first step to refining it and letting it take on some personality. The first draft has to suck, however discouraging that might initially be. But it’s the launch pad, and now that the first draft is out of the way, you can work on making something actually worth a damn.

Set A Goal

Earlier this year, I set the goal of completing the first three Mechanisms by my birthday. It provided additional motivation and incentive to work on them regularly. And it felt good to meet the goal.

After that, I didn’t really touch the Fourth for some time. I was okay letting it sit for a little while. Shortly after I picked it up again, I gave myself the goal of finishing The Fourth Mechanism on the Fourth of July. And, by golly, I did it! It wasn’t even as painful a goal as I initially thought it would be.

The fact that this collection now exists is incredibly exciting, even though it’s not the imaginary ideal I had in my head. Now that it exists, I have a back burner free for other ideas. Ideas which can piggy back on these ones. And I’m excited about that potential too!