I have some confessions to make. Some things to be held accountable for.
I have not been keeping on top of my revision.
I have allowed the momentum that I managed to generate at the beginning completely and utterly die out, and I am now in a horrible slump.
I did not take notes. I did not take my own advice, and it seems that this exception has proved the rule, because having not taken notes caused what revision I have managed to do, what critique I have forced myself to make, to be at best messy and at worst utterly worthless.
I have let it get to the point where I literally may as well just start all over again.
I have watched YouTube, written blog posts, moaned about my lack of progress to friends, and let myself off the hook over and over again, every time the thought of trying to do revision has come to mind, almost every single time, for the past month, instead of actually doing the revision.
I have forgotten that I’m allowed to do a bad job, and that the important thing is that it gets done at all.
I have forgotten that I am allowed to do other things and not stress endlessly about this one project and hinge all of my self-worth upon its success.
It has gotten so bad that I have actually stopped caring about this story, because I am so frustrated with my lack of progress, which is entirely my own fault for allowing to happen.
It has almost gotten to the point where I wish that I had never even started this story to begin with, because then I wouldn’t be here, hating the prospect of it, of committing to seeing it through, and how it’s holding me back from doing anything else.
I have established these kinds of ridiculous false dichotomies and allowed them to survive, instead of ripping them out at the roots and keeping my garden free of this brand of noxious hypnotism that only I can ever impose upon myself.
And I have done all of this …
I don’t know why.
And really, it doesn’t matter. The point is that I’ve done it. And it’s making me want to break my no-swearing rule for this blog, because I feel that if I could chastise myself viciously enough …
It wouldn’t do anything. It never does.
The only thing that works is, ironically, giving up. That’s what I’ve learnt. Time and time again.
If something isn’t working, if it isn’t fitting, then the only way to move forward is to give it up.
So I give up.
I give up on this revision of this draft.
I give up on all the insight I’ve had into this draft to this date, every note I’ve written, every critique I’ve leveled at it, every aspiration I’ve had for the second draft, every distracting plan for the hypothetical future that has come at the expense of observing what I currently have to work with and taking it seriously, like I said I would, like I advised other people to do.
I give up on all the effort I put into it, all the momentum that I gathered and then wasted, all the time I spent and allowed to go to waste.
I give up on caring about this whole thing.
I GIVE UP.
That does feel better.
It’s the idea. Ideas are really hard to deal with, you guys.
The idea in this case is that of ‘doing it right’ – not as in going and looking at textbooks or taking classes or whatever, not for me, but in terms of showing up every day and doing the work that I’ve assigned myself to do. And I do think that this is a good idea. I do think that this is an effective strategy. But I also know that thinking that ‘this is the only way it will work’ has totally killed my passion, because as soon as that becomes the focus, the actual work is no longer the focus, and so the revision, or the draft, or the storyboarding, or whatever it is – that ceases to matter. It becomes a technicality. And I realise that this is somewhat the point with the strategy of ‘just doing it’, because it – supposedly – takes the stress off thinking about how you’re going to do the thing, and puts it on doing it.
The only issue is that, for me, this came at the cost of what it was, and why on Earth I’d even want to do it.
And I have a lot of reasons to do it.
I love this story. I love the idea of what it could be, and I love what it is, even though it’s messy and inconsistent and it’s ‘rough’ in the same way that getting fired, dumped and mugged all on the same day is ‘a bit of a downer’.
I love that there are really, really good parts in it, and far more good parts than there have been in any other draft I’ve written through to completion; there are fully-formed ideas in it, for crying out loud! That’s almost unbelievable! There are motifs that work, lines that read really well and evoke the exact kind of mood that I’m going for; I realise that I’m talking about a work that I wrote and thus have a lot of bias towards, but I am capable of being critical, and aside from all of the distractions and muddling that I’ve partaken in, I can see something that is not simply potentially a good story, not just hopeful – I can see something that is very much worth continuing to work on and polish up, because there is guaranteed satisfaction to be had in getting it a bit more right than I did the first time around, stuff in it that is definitely worth keeping and building upon, and it’s so relieving and so vindicating, and it makes me really glad that I took a risk on this unutterably terrifying story that I never stopped thinking I couldn’t tell properly, and still don’t think I can, not really. But I think that if I don’t tell it, nobody else is going to at all, and that’s not good enough. Somebody should tell this story, even if it’s not perfect, even if the person who does tell it is not necessarily the right person for the job. That is how I feel about this story, and that is why I originally started writing it, and why I originally started revising it – because I don’t care who tells it, in a sense. Obviously I will be unspeakably angry if somebody steals this idea from me and does it before I can. But in terms of what the story is about and what it has to say, I just want it out there. And I don’t want to wait for somebody else to do it, because they may never do it. And I want the story told.
So I’ll let my decision to give up stand for now. And just sit on it. Just stop for a while.
Because the thing is, even now, I already feel that giving up is not good enough. It’s not right. It’s a mistake.
You gotta commit before you can understand. So commit.
And seriously, take notes. If you take nothing else away from my ramblings, take that. Notes are ridiculously important. They keep you from deleting things you should keep (which is everything); they keep you from starting over again from the beginning when you need to press on in order to fully understand why the big picture doesn’t work – or perhaps to discover that, actually it does – notes may seem like ‘cheating’ in that they take away the consequences of ‘getting something wrong’, but in truth, note-taking is proof of your commitment. It proves that you want to get your story right, so much that you will even ‘cheat’ in order to get it done, that you will favour pragmatism over impossible ideals. It proves that you care enough to get it right, whatever it takes, however easy you have to make things on yourself. It’s not something we think ought to be encouraged in our culture, but really, that’s stupid. Because writing doesn’t affect anybody else. Just you. So go nuts. Live in luxury. Commit.
Commitment, folks. That’s why you have to give up sometimes.
And then, hopefully, you’ll understand what specifically you need to give up, and what you don’t. I think I need to let this sit for a little while longer to ‘get there’.
So it’s good to have the option. I don’t want to think of what would have happened if I couldn’t give up.