Ready or not

I’m getting into a nice flow with study; I realised that I’d overcompensated for how much study I’d need to do with my current schedule by about eight hours per week, which excited and also really shocked me – I haven’t done that much work, because that’s 48 hours a week, but that’s what my schedule, in my Excel document, says, so I’ve got some time to play around with. I’ve also organised my time with assignments so that, with any luck, I will be handing in about half of my assignments a few days before they’re actually due so that I’m only working on one thing at a time (plus getting things in early, which is just kind of good); hopefully it all works out and I’m not going to end up writing on something that hasn’t been covered in lectures by that point.

Tallulah just keeps getting more and more twisted. The simple story I wanted to tell is now demanding to be, instead, a huge sprawling character-study epic narrative of hysterical proportions. The stuff that I added in I want to keep because something tells me that things that come up organically during the writing process deserve to be kept because they came up for a reason, but I kinda think those reasons warrant examining before giving them preference, because right now I’ve got this story into a real knot by insisting on keeping all of these elements in it.

Two characters that never existed before made their way in right when I started writing it over a year and a half ago, and were promptly followed by four more. So I let them stay, and thought I’d followed my destiny or whatever, that it was the preordained trajectory of the story’s life unfurling before my shallow mortal eyes.

If there is something in all of that, then I can’t see it – I’ve recently come back to the idea of that first idea, and it was so simple, so one-note, so ‘pure’. At this very moment I don’t know if I’ve got a novel or an over-complicated short story trying to get out.

That original idea may be holding back this new idea, the one with all of the organic new elements that have come together to form what is a rather different story, even though the core is still the same. Which parts are insisting on staying, and which parts are deserving of staying – that is now my obstacle.

I can, instead of trying to deal with it, just turn back around and backtrack far enough so that I erase it all from the timeline and just have my nice little ‘pure’ story to work with again.

Or I can take what I’ve got, accept that it’s different to what I had, and see what I can make out of that.

Both are options that do not equate to this thing getting written until later, an indeterminate ‘later’ that, for all I know, and given my track record, may well never eventuate.

What do I do?

I call today a miss, and start again tomorrow.

It’s better late than never. It’s better to be safe than sorry. It’s better to have something than nothing.

So the other option is to just write a bad story.

I think that’s the other option, because I can’t see myself writing a good story without a good plan; I can see myself writing a mess by diving into the revision without any sort of goals set out and then getting lost halfway through and confusing myself and getting all muddled and caught-up in the moment and then stepping back and going ‘you know, if I’d had a plan before doing this, it might have worked out a little better’. This is what I predict will happen if I ‘just do it’ right now – well, tomorrow evening. I’m done for the day. Besides it’s past midnight so the ‘day’ is also done with me.

The idea of newness scared me last time. This time it’s the idea of losing sight of the much larger picture. That being my life.

That’s what this second half of the year is an experiment in. I’ve got 40 hours of study to take care of – I thought I could get by with 22, but unless my calculations are way off – and I will do them again – that’s not going to cut it, nowhere near. After those 40 hours I have time to myself, and included in that time is this novel. But then that’s not including working on assignments, which involves not just writing but reading, and searching for things to read, and determining which things are actually going to count towards the assignment, and watching things, and making notes on them and possibly even watching them again … I’ve already decided that while I’m working on assignments I probably can’t justify also drafting the novel, but we’ll see. Maybe I actually do have the time to spare. Maybe I don’t mind my schedule being that full, when the time comes.

I only have to wait for it to come.

With this novel, I have to take myself to the time. I have to make that time happen. I think the cautious part of me, the perfectionist, is taking advantage of that and calling in every favour to keep it from ever happening, because I’ll never be ready enough, as far as I’m concerned, to make this story work as well as I’d want it to, which is so well that I can’t even think of it.

I’ve never had a singular, clear vision of this story that solves every issue, addresses every flaw and oversight. Never. That vision, that voice, has never inhabited me, and it is that ideal, one that my brain does not even physically contain, only the words ‘this is what perfection looks like, and this is when it’ll be done properly’ to placehold for it, that I am holding myself accountable to. Thus the stalling will never end.

Unless I just make it happen.

Unless I write another bad story.

And I just think that there has to be a balance.

Yes, write the crappy first draft. Yes, get the damn writing done. Of course. That goes without saying for me now. But now that I’ve had the chance to reflect – well, wouldn’t it be silly not to?

I have reflected and re-reflected, and it’s taking too long, and sure it feels like I’m chipping away at what feels like an insurmountable task with every moment that passes in deliberation, but I do have an image of what I want to happen. I do have some kind of idea of what I’m after.

It’s just not a story.

Without a story, I have nothing to do but put words on pages, to fill up empty quotas and meaningless space with words wanting stakes of any kind.

I need to find the story. It’s not what I thought it was at the beginning, and it’s not what I thought it would be after I’d written it down and gotten it out of my head and onto the page. It’s not even what it is on the page right now. It’s somewhere in my head, waiting to be put together, waiting for the green light. Waiting for me to make the time.

I can’t just wait until it’s perfect.

But I have to wait until it’s a story.

A story that wants to be told – a story that is magnificent and whole in every way except that it hasn’t been told yet, and the hurt of that want is what will spur me to action.

Or not, and I’ll just say ‘all right screw it’ and I’ll be the proud father of another jumble of stream-of-consciousness jargon masquerading as a potential coherent narrative. In fact yes, that is what’s going to happen, one way or another, ready or not.

I’m ready to not be ready. I think that’s what I’m saying.

For whatever reason, I think it’ll actually work.


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