A lemon to pick

When life gives you lemons, and more to the point when those lemons come from a lemon tree that you specifically planted in order to acquire said lemons, remember that you got what you wanted at the time and that that’s okay, even if you don’t actually have any use for lemons at the present moment. Or perhaps you only had the option to plant a lemon tree and you decided that, in the decision between lemons or nothing, lemons were probably the way to go. Who knows what you’d be able to do with them once you had them? Compared to nothing, which is guaranteed to give you yet more nothing to work with at a later date. Lemons, in this circumstance – probably the better option.

It doesn’t change the fact that the lemons you are now presented with and charged with finding a use for fit none of your current needs nor desires, and while that doesn’t mean you should write lemons off altogether just because they’re not showcasing their full utility now, it also doesn’t mean you have to lock yourself in to lemons. You could go and buy some oranges, for instance, or even kiwifruit. Yes, all of that effort spent planting and watering and checking the weather and monitoring for pests may feel wasted right this minute, but it was a labour of loving intentions, and nothing can take that away.

Try to find some solace in that as you curse the lemon-gods, the evolutionary process that led to the realisation of lemons to have even been an option for you to take however many seasons ago, because if lemons never existed, you would have been spared the option to begin with. Yes, obviously some other citrus fruit would have ultimately stood in for lemons as the source of your present wrath because this is all a matter of symbolism to begin with, but right now in the midst of your ire it’s far more satisfying to take things as literally as possible, in order to better envision all the ways you might exercise your bitterness upon these hapless lemons laying at your feet, mocking you with the perfection of their lemonitudinalness, and utter lack of being anything other than what they are, which is useless, useless, useless goddamn motherfucking lemons.

WHY ISN’T MY BOOK GOOD YET

I’ve spent most of today doing what I call ‘going insane’, which is not actually going insane; it’s procrastinating by doing work I wasn’t planning on doing in lieu of the work I was planning on doing because I’m tired of waiting for my story to be the story I want it to be. Said work is taking the form of a synopsis of what I currently feel is a better, superior, all-around just plain correct version of my novel, which has only had one revision, and it’s taken me over two years to get to that point and that makes me incredibly frustrated just now, actually.

I like this synopsis, a lot. I like it because it feels like a more cohesive story that includes lots of elements and ideas that aren’t in my current manuscript, or which are not developed as much as I’d like. I’m writing it not really because I believe my manuscript is unsalvageable, because I know full well that it’s actually pretty great for only having had one revision and is a perfectly fine foundation for a story, but because I just want it to be better, and I want it to be better right the fuck now.

So this synopsis I’m writing is all the things I feel my manuscript currently isn’t, all the necessary missing parts that scream to me, at this specific juncture in time, as being the only things keeping my story from working the way it should work. Don’t get me wrong; I know this is just frustration talking. I’ve had the exact same feelings before and I’ve written other synopses before, and they’ve felt exactly right as well, and they were completely different to this one. I know, objectively, that what I’m writing is not ‘correct’, any more than my current manuscript is ‘incorrect’; it’s just what I want right now.

But goddammit, it is what I want right now, and if I’ve learnt anything about writing it’s that you can do far worse than to indulge your inner 3-year-old’s perfectionist tantrums – because if they’re there in your system, then they’re there, and it’s up to you to take responsibility for them. Let yourself get tired out. Let yourself splurge. Like any act of spontaneous creativity, you’re even bound to come up with a few great ideas in the process, even if you look back on them later and they don’t work for this story.

That’s not the point. The point is not to fix. The point is to do exactly what you want, to get it right when everything’s so wrong, to do what you know is the best thing, toss conventional wisdom to the wind and just go way off the deep end, lose control, all that stuff. Because that stuff is only good for building habits. It doesn’t help you stay sane. It doesn’t help you vent your frustration. And sometimes you’re frustrated because you know you can do better, and you just have to go and do it, and commit to it, decide that yes, this is the new plan, this is what shall begin work starting tomorrow. You must get over your predisposition to call yourself a flake with non-existent impulse-control, stop telling yourself that ‘real writers’ would never explode like this and lose the plot because they’d be happy with what they’ve got because they play the long game – you need to stop all of that administrative bullshit and just piss off into the great blue yonder, because it’s better than what you’ve got right now, and you know best.

Because of course you’ll come back. Of course you’ll feel better having vented your spleen and return with a fresh perspective now that the haze of vitriolic regret has been blown out of your system like oxygen out of a crack in a spaceship’s hull, and realise that, actually, what you’ve got to work with is a lot better than you gave it credit for. But you also don’t think about that right now, don’t remind yourself of how practical and smart you will be after you go and ‘be silly’ for a while, because then it won’t work. Because if you do, you’re treating this thing you actually need to do, for the sake of your writing, as a joke, and that’s treating yourself as a joke, and you can’t, cannot make good art by thinking you’re a joke.

So that rational, nervously laughing voice telling you to remind yourself that no, of course you’re not actually giving up on all of this hard work you’ve done, this is just a result of pent-up frustration and will pass once you work it out of your system – that voice is your worst enemy right now. Because while that’s all true, it’s not helpful. You know you’re not actually going to destroy all your progress up to this point, because you’re not actually insane; there’s no need to tell yourself that. Right now what you need to do is let yourself decide that, yeah, actually, you will flip a table as you tug back the end of your rope out from under it, and bugger off somewhere else to start over with a clean slate.

So you won’t come back, remember? You know better than to come back. You’ve got this great new idea that will solve all your problems that isn’t silly; why would you ever go back to the shitty, malfunctioning, time-thieving mistake you’ve been slaving over for two years with no results? You wouldn’t. Because that would be the silly thing to do.

You’ve gotta commit to allowing yourself to be right.

Because you are right. This is art. It’s your art. You are the only one who can be right about it. So go be right about it.

Go give those ruddy lemons what for.

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