Forward looking

Forward is not the only direction, by any means, nor the only good one. It’s where I’m looking though. I’m looking forward to getting these assignments out of the way over the next three days, including today, and then catching up on about 4 weeks of study that I’ve missed out of anxious procrastination, as well as revisions of Tallulah.

As always, there’s a silver lining to having taken an extended break from my book; I just want to get the damn thing finished. It doesn’t have to be perfect; it doesn’t have to show of every single thing that I’m capable of as a writer, and it certainly doesn’t have to show off what I’m not capable of as a writer, though it inevitably will. Which is fine. I want to learn from that. But it has to be done, and right now having not worked on it for five weeks I’ve started feeling that it would be really very simple to just get it done.

Thinking about how much better I could make it certainly does take its toll on my willingness to ‘just get it done’, because I know that I could make it better. The only issue is that now, having experienced firsthand just how unlimited that abstract end goal of ‘better’ is, how every time I solidify a plan I come up with an even better one, ‘better’ is not even good enough. It’s too vague. I do want it to be better than it is, quite a lot better in fact, but I need a cut-off point as well. I need to know what needs to be better and in what way, and the trouble is that I won’t know that until I think of it, which feels like it happens at random – you can’t plan your epiphanies, as awesome as that would be. I do believe that there’s far more to it than just random chance, but seeing as I can’t look behind the curtain to see what exactly is there either it’s kind of a moot point.

So now begins a new plan, and one that seems hard to enforce: separating my constantly-expanding roster of new ideas from the story I’ve got on my hands, establishing the parameters of that story, and within those parameters working to fill in the cracks and plump everything up. Which the character-maps are part of, and they have been helpful – they’ve just also been incredibly taxing to actually do, because it means reading through huge sections of the novel over and over again. While I like the idea of getting really familiar with my manuscript and I believe it’s essential in order to write a better next draft, the reality of it is a lot of slogging and forcing yourself to focus and other just rather uncomfortable realities. It gets boring. Really boring. You have to play the long game when you’re doing revision, to accept that in the moment things are probably going to make your brain feel like a pool of stagnant water, but that with each micro-task you complete there is a sense of real progress, and that’s something worth working towards.

And it requires you to look forward, while still maintaining awareness of where you currently are. It’s kind of like walking down stairs: you glance down every now and again just to make sure you don’t miss a step and risk breaking your legs; you’re still totally focused on walking down those stairs, but you’re focusing on it so that you can get it over and done with and reach your destination, at which point the stairs will have done their job and you don’t have to worry about them anymore. For the time being at least.

And when you do have to think about them again, well, it’s a good thing they’re there. Stairs help us get where we need to go. Although by all means take an elevator if you can. This metaphor is breaking up; my point is that looking forward is a good thing, a necessary thing for any kind of drudgery-requiring task, but if it comes at the expense of knowing where you are then you’re bound to trip up at some point. So look forward, but accept from what point you’re looking from as well. That way you won’t just be looking somewhere; you’ll be going somewhere.

As for all of those new ideas that just keep getting replaced by other new ideas – well, that’s where the notes come in. Always take notes. Take notes for ideas that are brilliant; take notes for ideas you know don’t fit and you’ll never ever use ever – take them because they’re there to be taken, and reduce the cognitive load on your brain. They’re like lemons; instead of making lemonade just stick them in a box somewhere and decide what to do with them later. You have other things to do right now.

Speaking of which: these assignments aren’t going to write themselves. Nor are they going to set their own cut-off dates. University has done that for me. But three days is quite a long time, so it’s time to start dividing my days into hours.

Three days. Three days and I’m out for two and a half weeks.

During which time we will be packing up our stuff to move to a new house … that won’t be stressful at all …

Looking forward to it.

~~~

Okay I meant for that to be the end of this post, but it’s actually given me a perfect idea: I will have Tallulah revised by the 29th of May, the day before we move into the new house. There we go. Now I’m looking forward to it.

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