Unicycle

As so often happens, only at the end do I finally start thinking of things that I could have done better from the beginning.

So I guess it’s a good thing that this isn’t actually the ‘end’. But anyway.

Constructing a story, for me, is a very divisive affair in terms of my behaviour and attitude. On the one hand, there’s the ‘artist’ in me who wants to be all ‘original’ and ‘unique’ and ‘not just rehashing what everybody’s already done’, and he tends to spend a lot of time trying to make interesting character obvservations, to draw the reader’s attention to things they haven’t thought of themselves, because of course he has telepathy and can tell what that stuff is without even having other minds to read.

And then on the other hand there’s the ‘reader’, and the reader who loves stories, and how they flow, and how they behave, and it’s probably a pretty narrow definition of what a ‘story’ is, but in the end it’s what he really enjoys, and because he understands how it works he is very excited to try his hand at copying the process. the drive to be ‘original’, to prove that his ideas are not literally just clones of other, pre-existing ones, is most definitely an afterthought, if it is even formulated to begin with. what the ‘reader’ wants to do is to see more of the same, to repeat what he’s already experienced – only this time, it’s going to be him doing the writing.

and then there’s me, who is both of these customised Jungian archetypes and more, and I’m at this stage where I’m looking at what I’m writing and thinking back on everything I’ve written and thinking to myself: ‘You know, if I’d just tried to have some fun copying what I like about other stories, this draft would not only have been more fun, but it also would have been shorter, and it also would have been more “organically” original, because the originality would have come from the constraints of the formula I would be following, and seeing how much I can fit in there without totally yanking the constraints out of their sockets and descending into postmodern anomie. oh well. there’s always the second draft.’

and there is always the second draft, and I think it’ll be pretty awesome. but there’s a very simple story in Tallulah, and when I say ‘simple’ I mean ‘done before and thus easy to follow/imitate/build on’, and somewhere in the writing process, over the past – what, six months of ‘serious’ writing? – it got totally lost when the ‘artist’ took over and decided to flex his so-very-clever muscles and decorate this story with the trappings of stream-of-consciousness prose, going for that elusive thing called ‘internality’ that he hoped would rub off on the story by virtue of the writing being very, well, internal. 

and that’s fine. that is something that I’m struggling to accept, even after so many repetitions of that motto of: ‘it’s a first draft, it doesn’t matter’. It does matter, though, and that’s why I have to accept it: this is what I’ve produced, and that is what I haven’t produced, and by this equation the result is this current situation that I find myself in, where certain decisions have been made and a certain chain of consequences has followed. it is enough to make me want to start all over again, from scratch, as soon as I finish this draft.

but the thing is that part of this chain of consequences is the material that it’s given me, and it’s quite different to the ‘simple story’ that I had in mind, the one that is at the core of Tallulah, because the kind of ‘story’ that I know and want to imitate is one that I love, and drives every story that I have come up with to at least some extent. this draft, if I use it as the base for the rest of the drafts I write, is going to therefore have its own say on the shape of the story by the end of it. it may just be in terms of ‘let this be a lesson to you’, but at the moment it feels like I’m trapped in the gravitational pull of its narrative sequence, and if I try to pull out of it I may get away, but without fuel to make it to any neighbouring astral bodies upon which to rest and establish a new foundation. plus I hate waste. I do actually want to use what I can from this draft.

But then again, as I’ve said before, a draft isn’t really a story. it’s a skeleton suggestion of how a story could be told. that’s what I’m going to tell myself until I believe it, anyway, because seriously this draft needs some work.

And I do just want to copy the things that I enjoy as a reader, because it’s fun to feel like you’re joining in.

But regardless of any of that, I’m still about 80k words in, 40k to go, and if I really want to I can wrap this up in the next 8 days. I’ll probably pace myself a little more than that, but it’s an option.

and this is very exciting. it’s been so long since I actually finished a draft. that feeling is incomparable. and part of it is knowing that you did everything that you could with it, that you made the most of the opportunity, so even though I’m retrospectively disappointed by what I didn’t manage to achieve, I don’t want to let that kill my buzz when the time for buzzing finally arrives. I still have a few things to test out, and while copying is fun, just doing your own thing and seeing how far you can push outside the lines you know, the borders you agree to remain within, and not have anybody tell you it’s wrong, is also fun. just different.

and ultimately, I think that you need both that urge to copy and that urge to prove how awesome you are when you’re setting out to do something creative and personal, because if you’re only doing one, then you’re not telling your story. and if you’re not telling your story … well, then it won’t get told. 

You need both. or I do anyway. 

And I’m really quite proud of it.

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