An Elephant Never Forgets
“When things between people end, it’s almost never because of one big catastrophe, or some horrendous reveal. Usually, it’s the end result of a series of small decisions and events; some of those bad, most of them just so.
A love affair is a thing between people. As is every other enterprise we can conceive of. Civilisations, also.”
Many of you might have noticed that there hasn’t been a new image posted in the last few weeks, and there hasn’t been any new writing, either. Among those of you who noticed that, you might have missed talk a little before it of Elephant Words ending, and the absence of new posts may have been an unpleasant surprise, for which I apologise.
To avoid any further confusion, I should explain what is going on. As of Sunday 31st of July 2016, Elephant Words finished publishing new writing. As an ongoing project, in this current format or any other (for the foreseeable future), Elephant Words is ending.
The site will remain here for as long as I can afford to keep it here, with all writing and images intact, and I think that may be a very long time because hosting and domain names are not very expensive. Certainly not more expensive than letting go of any physical memory of the site would be for me, anyway.
(The text at the top of this post was going to be part of my last piece of prose here, inspired by the final image. As it turned out, I couldn’t get past the metaphor and the piece never really pulled together. Most of the time we’re writing about more than one thing as we put the words down, but in this instance navigating between the end of the world in the story and the end of the site was beyond my abilities. The site didn’t need me to, it turns out – I had a lot of different ideas jostling in my head, but everything I wanted to say was covered, and better, by the people who wrote pieces for the final week. They didn’t have as much trouble as I with the metaphor, and you should definitely go and read them.)
The decision to end the site wasn’t made lightly, and though it may have seemed sudden the seeds of it were planted a long time ago. The short version – stripped down for brevity because there is no anger here, or blame for anyone but myself – is that trying to keep the site running with regular new writing was no longer sustainable for me to do; not only was I struggling to find the time to communicate with all of the potential writers – which was bad enough – I wasn’t able to keep the site at the level where it was posting daily, which for me was worse.
Because this has ultimately become a bit of a surrender to the forces of entropy, I’ve found it easy to see ending the site as a personal failure. But friends and family have talked me round on that.
From an organisational perspective, this site could have done better, it’s true. There was a point at which it could have grown into a huge, social endeavour, a massive community, and I just didn’t have the necessary skill-set to make that happen.
But from a creative perspective – and it is, of course, a creative project! – it’s impossible for me to see Elephant Words as a failure.
For a start, it’s a creative website that has lasted nine years. That isn’t a small thing.
More important than that, a truly incredible amount of writing talent has come through here, and gifted us with some really astonishing work. Just over fifty people have written pieces here, from people who just dropped in once or twice, to those who were incredibly prolific. Professional writers, to people using the inspirational images that the site is built around to write in public for the first time. We’ve had poems and traditional or literary writing; memoirs and far-flung genre pieces; experimental nonsense prose and formal serials.
I’m honoured and humbled by the writers who’ve made Elephant Words, week after week and year after year, and I’m incredibly grateful to each of them. Those five who joined me for that first year – when we somehow all managed to write a post a week, and each of us for all 52 weeks – and those few who only joined the site very late in its lifespan and diligently kept posting as I was losing all momentum, and all the others in between.
I want to thank:
Andrew Cheverton, who is one of my oldest friends and one of the few writers that has ever actually shocked me with their writing, and then later shocked me with their writing again. Andrew was one of the first people I used as a sounding board when I was trying to pull the site together. He was also one of those first six writers on the site, and has the distinction of writing the very first piece, and the very last one.
George London, who has more than once come through to help administer the site behind the scenes, and has been endlessly supportive. George is my cousin, so I’ve known him his entire life. It’s kind of weird that I knew he was creative in other ways, but didn’t know he was also a writer, and better at it than I, until he started writing here. But that’s probably something I need to work through in a different venue.
Rivka Jacobs has written more pieces at the site than anyone else, including me. That’s pretty amazing in itself – only two other writers, Alex Jury and Ian Sharman – were nearly as prolific (both of whom are also amazing). But as well as writing the most, almost all of Rivka’s writing here was fully formed at point of delivery, with evident research and intricate prose that is astoundingly polished.
David Baillie. I mainly just want to mention David because his comic career is really starting to take off at the moment, with a collected trade of his first Vertigo series “Red Thorn” (with Meghan Hetrick) recently crashing into the homes of readers via stores and Amazon deliveries, and even though in reality he was already on this path well before he wrote for Elephant Words, or met me, and I have had absolutely no input into or influence on his amazing writing, somewhere deep down in my soul where it’s okay for us to lie to ourselves, I give myself a bit of credit for his success.
David Wynne, who, as well as being a great writer and artist, has been a patient and insightful listener and friend whenever I’ve needed to thrash out my thoughts about the site over the last couple of years.
All of the other people who wrote here – I have huge writing crushes on several of you, I’ve learned a lot from all of you, and I’m glad to think of many of you as friends since meeting you through Elephant Words.
All of the readers – it’s been difficult to get you involved, but I know from the stats that there are a few of you out there, and I’ve always been grateful for your time.
And finally, and for me most importantly, Amy, my amazing wife, who was incredibly supportive at the beginning, when the site represented a big commitment at a point where our relationship was still quite new, and who has continued to be incredibly generous and indulgent throughout these last nine years.
Thank you, everyone. I look forward to seeing what we all do next!
On behalf of Elephant Words
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