When I learnt that the right to happiness was built into the American Constitution as an actual piece of legislation, my reaction can only be described in words that would violate my self-imposed ‘no extreme expletives’ rule for this blog. It just seems so horrible, making happiness a legal requirement, so artificial and displaced. It suggests that there is other stuff in the world, perhaps set out by this same constitution, that makes happiness such a risky thing to bank on that you need a legal assertion of your right to it. It reeks of hidden contradictions in whatever system or frame of mind bore it out.
Of course, not being American or having ever lived in America or really studied the constitution, I wouldn’t have the first clue about any of that, but I do know that over the past few days I’ve really been forcing the issue with regards to my writing, and just my state of mind in general – that I must be enjoying myself, that I must find fulfillment in the narrow selection of tasks that I also must accomplish. A lot of musting going on.
And it’s like … chill, dude. It’s okay for things to be a bit sub-par every now and again. It’s okay to not be okay.
It also makes me a lot less likely to do any of these ‘must-do’ tasks, because then the pressure to get it ‘right’ mounts up and the consequences for getting it wrong become hypothetically astronomical. So I try and talk myself back down again – it doesn’t really matter, you can just do something else, all of this pressure is just because you’re being neurotic and have unresolved emotional baggage …
Which is just as bad, right? Because the thing is that these things I want to do, I actually want to do; I don’t want them to be ‘sorta-maybe important’, because they are important. What I need is not to have their importance diminished with contradictory coping strategies: what I need is a way to get myself to a point where I’m willing to let these things be un-fun for a bit while I get the ball rolling, and to stop thinking about it, actually. I can’t figure out what I’m holding myself back from here, and it’s frustrating. But more frustrating is being able to recognise the way I’m thinking and all the bad habit memories that this thought-process is attached to, the thinking ahead to scenarios of failure and shame that make out to be inevitable consequences of me even trying to start.
And, I guess, that’s a sign that I really do need to ‘just do it’, because as long as these kinds of thoughts keep coming up, those habits are still alive and kicking, and I don’t like that. I don’t like them being alive and/or kicking. I want them gone, and the only way out is through.
I do want to do these things, and I do feel that the stakes are high. I also feel that they’re not as enjoyable or fulfilling as they have been in the past, and as a result I feel a bit trapped by committing to them, because I feel that they won’t be enough even when I do get stuck in. And I can tell myself ‘so what if it’s not enough?’, and it’s a good point, and it helps, but …
Always a ‘but’. That’s the problem.
It’s all just assumptions and impressions. They just keep coming up. It just doesn’t stop.
The only way out is through.
Here’s the plan:
Tallulah is getting revised today. Just the second chapter. I did a big rewrite with the first chapter, and I’m leaving it, because honestly I can’t be bothered going back to de-write it. The second chapter is a vacuum, so that needs to be sorted out.
My plan is to insert the additional information that I want to have happen into the chapter as inelegantly a manner as I can possibly think of, in order to start getting focused on structure over pretty writing. So I’m actually not going to change anything that’s already written in that chapter.
What I’m going to do is insert lines, paragraphs, whatever, in bold font, just right smack-dab in the middle of whatever’s happening, and then do some track changes stuff to smooth out the transition a bit. And if there is no good place to insert this new stuff, I’ll put it in a bad place. The point is to get it in there. This pass is not going to be for readability, but to produce the messy internal organs that will serve as the foundation for that readability when I do the third draft; the structure needs to get done. And I do have a plan for that structure.
Oh good, I actually do; here it is …
No, I don’t like it, but it’s what I’ve got.
MAYBE I NEED TO READ THE DRAFT AGAIN THAT WILL BE ENJOYABLE EXPENDITURE OF TIME AND ENERGY
Maybe I do actually just need a break from this book. It’s going against all of my life plans and stuff, but maybe it’s what I need. I’m just scrambling for something to help me out here, to get me started again.
Just do the chapter … just do it …
First awkward bold-font insert accomplished. My god that’s jarring to read, or even look at. The styles don’t match at all. Maybe I should just write this thing in first-person, or commit to a less subjective third-person narrative voice. I feel even less like I know what I’m doing than I did a moment ago.
I don’t know how helpful this is going to be when I come back to it for draft 3, even if it’ll be helpful at all, because I’m starting to feel like I should actually be writing an entirely new story, from the bottom-up, just because of the effort it would take to bring this one back into line with my vision for it. The awkwardness of trying to let this story be what it’s become while also trying to add in new things to make it feel more like I want it to feel is … awkward. It feels incredibly uncomfortable. It feels like a futile exercise now that I’ve started, even more so than it did in my head. Like trying to jam two entirely different stories together on the same page. Never mind the writing style; it’s just the content itself. It feels wrong. It feels like I’m doing this all wrong. Like I’ve failed before I’ve even begun.
This is learning. It is jamming two different stories together. That is not a good thing. It feels bad, and it feels pointless.
So let’s not do that then.
What it is doing right is now giving me an idea of how I would direct my re-write, whether that’s over the existing first-draft text or in an entirely new clean set of documents. Which is … exactly what I wanted it to do, because this is about laying down pipe, not turning on the water.
Again: this is good.
The question now is whether I immediately follow up this awkwardness with some rewriting or whether I let it sit. I guess, though, since I’m already doing Track Changes, I can just delete – or insert – huge lumps of text and come back to it later and see how it feels.
I do really still feel like I ought to be writing Tallulah over from scratch. I just don’t have the energy. But I might not ever have the energy and still need to do it, so energy can’t be my main concern. I have to shift that priority to something else. Necessity I guess. I can work with no energy.
And the thing is that there is already structure here, structure enough for me to work with and want to work with. Something to build on.
Well … I’ll finish working over this chapter and see how it feels. But I’ve gotten started again, and that’s what matters.