Home Stretch

This is it.

And perhaps I ought to have anticipated some anxiety, but I suppose that would be far too meta, even for me.

That’s all right, though. I’ll take it as a sign that I’m much more invested in what I’m actually doing than thinking about what I’m doing as a spectator, which is probably a good thing.

Because now I’ve got this wonderfully clear, direct path to a whole series of key events that are going to happen in the story one way or another, because I have dictated that it is so.

The anxiety comes from what I talked about a bit last time, that sense that the story isn’t what I wanted it to be anymore, and coming to terms with the possibility that I may never have really known what I wanted it to be, or that I could have made it what I wanted it to be if I were more disciplined or focused or far-sighted or whatever. I’m using the draft as a story to build upon, and I’m distancing myself from my own actions, my responsibilities, the things that I’ve done with writing this draft that have boxed me into the corner I’m in now, and I woke up this morning literally feeling sick about it.

or perhaps I was just feeling sick and thinking about it and my primitive simian brain decided to do some spur-of-the-moment equations because it was too tired and panicked to do otherwise. so my only counter to that is some positive self-talk:

I’m almost done. that is good.

not just good; that’s exciting. I’m not forcing that – it actually is exciting. I love being in the rush that comes at the end of a creative work like this, when it all ‘falls into place’, and whether that’s because you see the light and know exactly what to do or it’s because you’ve exhausted all your other options and have been so brow-beaten by the assumption that you’re just not committed enough to your original vision to follow through and now have no energy to try anything else – well, in this case, it’s the first one, and if it were the second one, I would need to change my deadlines again, because nobody needs to write under those conditions, not if they’re setting the boundaries themselves.

it feels good to know that I’m about to achieve something; that’s the biggest thing I’m feeling, where I’m getting the most buoyancy from.

and then, when I look past that, and really think about my anxieties, I’m even more excited, because all of the things I’m worried about that I’ve done wrong, all of the loose ends and weak justifications and knee-jerk protections I’ve erected over my characters when I should have let them out into the world I’ve tried to create in order to tell a story, to let them go through trails so that they can tell the story of what happens when you come out the other side – I get a do-over. In fact, I’m expected to get a do-over; it’s not even a do-over, it’s just the next step in the process. this is one of the few situations in which you are expected by other people to get a do-over, where you don’t have to feel guilty about wanting one because of social norms or whatever. and no, what other people think cannot be the be-all and end-all of your decisions, otherwise you’ll never be who you want to be, but it’s still something we all have to navigate through; it deserves recognition. just not obedience. not defeat.

and it’s the same with this draft, for me.

there are a lot of things this story is ‘meant to be’, a lot of meanings I wanted – and still want – to infuse it with, like a message in a bottle, or perhaps something even more cliche. I put a lot of pressure on Tallulah, my main protagonist, to live up to all of these expectations, and when it got down to it, I couldn’t put her through it all; it was too much, too unfair to ask someone to do that, even a fictional someone. and perhaps that’s why I’ve had such trouble writing Tallulah sometimes – wanting her to be too many things without giving her enough space to just be herself, and as a result, often not knowing how to write her, whether to let my curiosity or my agenda win out. I think that’s been the biggest mistake that I’ve made: a parental mistake, one that I’m pretty sure every child feels (as in offspring, not “young people”; we’re all children to somebody) – even though, as a writer, it is up to me to create Tallulah, after that, I have to let her do her thing, if I have any ounce of respect. it’s not that Tallulah is my child, because I don’t like to talk about fictional characters as real people; it’s that, much like a real person, a good character is not just a vehicle for expressing an agenda or a piece of propaganda, but an entity in its own right, and one that needs the space and the agency to be themselves, however they’re made, for whatever reason, and to come into their own.

and I think that’s why so much of this story has felt forced or awkward, because the story revolves around her – it is her story, and she’s not getting much space, narratively, to be herself. and I’m sorry for that, to her, as much as I just said I don’t like anthropomorphising fictional characters; I regret not knowing this sooner.

But, given that she’s not a real person, she isn’t going to get upset about it – instead I’m going to get upset about it, because she is a part of me, and one that I feel has been shortchanged a bit. gladly, though, the second draft is going to be a thing, and I have learnt so, ridiculously much about writing and storytelling through writing this draft, without even having gone back over it yet, and I have high hopes and a lot of excitement about getting onto that next step.

So overall, while it may feel like a mistake, it feels like a useful mistake, which is what we call a lesson – it’s only a mistake if you don’t learn anything from it. And again, I’m almost done, and that feels good all on its own.

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