I'm in some kind of a rut these last few days. Maybe I've made a leap with Janna? Somehow crossed over to a higher level of writing? Or maybe it's just wishful thinking, an illusion. Or maybe the idea of sandwiching drafts from two different novels was a big fat mistake...whatever the reason, I can't shake off the feeling of dismay and disappointment and disgust when I got done reading the third draft of TUBE. When I was writing it, I was so excited about the whole idea, and when I finished reading it after a three-months break, I thought, "Well, if I were an agent reading this as a submission, I'd have rejected it after the first page." And then I thought, "Or, if I were an editor, I'd rip the writer a new asshole for sending me this shallow glitzy bit of story."
So I asked myself, "Why? Why don't I like it anymore?" And then I remembered an experience I had once seeing two movies in a row. I went to see an independently produced film at SIFF and some minutes after it ended I went to see Moulin Rouge!, and after sitting through a couple opening scenes I felt nauseated and wanted to walk out. The festival movie has moved me so profoundly that the Hollywood movie right after it seemed superfluous, needlessly pompous, juvenile, empty.
This is how I felt diving into TUBE after Janna. It seemed diluted, watery storytelling in comparison, with a slew of flat characters and cheap tricks and stereotypical, simplified dialogue that made me want to gag. And so for a few days after I felt like crying. Then I set to rewriting it from scratch. The order of the chapters is gone, and the path of the story is going is new. But the scariest part is, I suddenly don't know where it will end up. It's like I'm really writing Draft 1 of Tyubik, not Draft 4. It's disheartening. I'm thinking, "I've already written a bunch of books, blissfully charging forward like a fool. And a fool I was, indeed. Is this maudlin melancholy and snot-jerking doubt the price of experience and knowledge?" I guess in some other time and place I would've shelved the book. I was tempted. But I'm stubborn and I'm not a quitter. I will finish it, no matter the cost. Only it kicked the ground from under my feet. What the hell happened??? Why now? And where did this frustration come from?
I can now compare. I have enough of a body of work where I can compare my earlier writing to my later writing and see the difference. And I saw that I have grown, but not as much as I thought I did, and I have a long way to go. That's scary as hell too. I'm thinking, "I'm forty. How many more years do I have in me? What else can I do to get better besides writing and reading every day? Is there something I'm missing? Something I ought to be doing and am not?"
I miss the time when I was only beginning, when I had no fear because I didn't know there was something to fear. Then I got the fear, then I learned how to write anyway without it stopping me, and now I have a new fear on top of it, the fear of not having enough time in my life to get as good as I want. There. I pulled out the heart of my misery. It's beating in my hand, bloody. Oh, how I want to squash it.
I have adopted the writing process of the writers of the past (or so I imagine), writers who used only pen and paper. I rewrite the old draft in a clean new file, relying on memory and putting down new content, hardly retaining anything old, maybe a sentence here, a sentence there. And from experience I know that for a sentence to sing it has to be rewritten 3-4 times or more. In effect, whatever I write needs to be polished numerous times, and here I am discarding every draft, so what do I end up with? A finished story of the first-draft quality, which is generally pretty shitty. And what does this mean? This means that at some point I've got to stop and not rewrite the draft completely but revise it in the same file until it truly shines. And for Tyubik that means at least Draft 5, and maybe Draft 6 too? This is what's terrifying. I have started writing it a year ago. Does this mean it will take me another year to finish it?? Good God. I'll go crazy! I have all these other novels I want to write! I'm already done with this story! I want to move on!
So you see my dilemma. I honestly don't know how I will climb out of this mess. I only know this: I'll keep writing and reading every day like before, and we shall see where it gets me. And I'll share this process with you, of course. Who knows, maybe I'll come out the other end with some new clever tricks up my sleeve. Maybe not. Or maybe some of you are smirking right now because you've been there, done that, and know exactly what I'm going through. In that case, SHARE. I want to get where I want to get by any means I can, and if you decide to hide your secret, why, I have a way of finding out where you live, and when I do...
Jesus, look what just happened. I've written myself out of my misery and started joking! I can't believe it. I can't fucking believe it. The power of writing illustrated for you, right here. Magic, eh? Well then, onward. Send wisdom, socks, coffee, chocolate, cash. You know, the usual. I love you. Back to writing I go.