The Memory Dresser – Nicholas M. Stillman

Our parlor is small—tucked in a corner of Helm, folded between an empty Gassa stall and the home of a half-deaf mystic. For this reason, discretion numbers as one of our services. Not even the moon bears full witness, as Illsea, the largest Tower on the hill, shades us from the first few hours of evening light. Under our lamps, we shape the memories of the people of Helm, our people. Unlike the royals in …

A question for Nicholas M. Stillman

Q: What is the hardest part of writing for you?

A: Is The Entirety of the Revision Process an acceptable response?

I was famous in my workshops for being a “Blank Page Reviser,” meaning I stripped my stories down to nothing when even the fewest amount of revisions were suggested. Even this story, “The Memory Dresser,” has been rewritten from a blank page at least five times. I thought this strategy demonstrated my dedication, my perfectionism, and a mind brimming with new ideas. While all of those might be true, I feel it also speaks to a deeper truth: revision requires an objective form of self-analysis which is difficult to practice. It means knowing the difference between writing a bad scene and having low self-esteem, or a good scene and an inflated ego.

I think a lot about the Dunning-Kruger Effect, or: “the more you know, the more you know you don’t know.” For me, this is the crux of the paradox of revising. The more I write, the more keenly aware of my writing deficiencies I become, the less confident my writing becomes, the worse it gets. Essentially, my self-confidence was much higher when I was much worse. This, I don’t think, is fair.

And so I tinker, I dabble, I erase, I re-write and the more I do it, the worse I feel. Yet, here I am. Bulldozing and sawing and reimagining a perfectly acceptable painting of a shed until it looks like a boat, which is not better or worse—just different. Have you seen my boat? I ask. What happened to the shed? they ask. One moment, I say as I begin painting for them a fresh pterodactyl.

But, occasionally, in a moment of unexpected glory, I realize that the pterodactyl, not the shed or the boat, was what I had been trying for so long to create.


Nicholas M. Stillman’s story “The Memory Dresser
in Metaphorosis Friday, 24 May 2019.
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About Nicholas M. Stillman

Nicholas M. Stillman is a writer, teacher, and reluctant service worker living in the east bay in California. He received his MFA from Saint Mary’s College of California in 2018, where he currently teaches English. He desperately wants to live in the woods, raise crops, write eight hours a day, and play an unhealthy amount of PS4. He shares this impossible dream with his girlfriend, Sabrina, and their cats, Gnocchi and Fusilli, who all insisted on being part of this bio.

@nick_at_day


Nicholas M. Stillman’s story “The Memory Dresser
in Metaphorosis Friday, 24 May 2019.
Subscribe now for e-mail updates!

May 2019

MetaphorosisBeautifully written speculative fiction from Metaphorosis magazine.

All the stories from the month, plus author biographies, interviews, and story origins.

Table of Contents

  • Somewhere to be Going — Katrina Smith
  • One for the Wounded — Phoenix Alexander
  • In the Beating of a Wing — David Cleden
  • The Memory Dresser — Nicholas M. Stillman
  • Unmasked — Tomas Marcantonio

Cover art by Melissa Kojima.

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