I’ve found out a few things about my novel since I started re-reading it about an hour ago. I’m a solid 5 pages in.
- Tallulah, the titular main character, is completely different in my head to how she is on the page, and it’s making it really hard to pay attention to what’s actually been written when I keep trying to twist everything around to fit my image of what it should be
- I may need to get shock treatment to make myself stop using commas
- Writing this book and telling this story is perhaps the most idiotic idea I’ve ever had and I have no clue why I thought I should attempt it
And when you feel really inadequate, when you feel like you don’t have the perspective, skill, nuance, life experience, empathy, whatever it is that you’ve decided is necessary to tell your story the way it deserves to be told and that you do not possess, there is only one piece of advice I can give to you.
Your story sucks? Tough. You’re writing it.
You suck and are incapable of writing your story as well as it deserves to be written? You’re so ashamed of being the person who even dared to think they could write it when they were so obviously not talented, experienced or just generally satisfactory enough that you want to crawl into a hole and dehydrate into a fossil?
That certainly is soul-crushingly disappointing.
Still gotta write it though.
You don’t have to like it. You can hate it. You can print out a physical copy just so that you can throw it at the wall.
But you still have to write it.
Because this is your plan. This is your time and effort and your honesty, your attempt to fucking make something of yourself. And if it sucks, if you suck, that is too fucking bad and you’re just going to have to live with it and write it. You are going to have to get used to being stuck with that. You are not allowed to not write it. However shitty it is, however embarrassed and ashamed and humiliated you feel for even having dared to attempt to write it, you are still going to write it.
This is not a discussion.
This is not a debate.
This is taking the 80k-word waste of the last two years of your life that is disgusting and makes you realise how disgusting you are as a human being and putting in the work that it isn’t worthy of, making the effort that you’re not worthy of making for it.
Because it’s all bullshit. Everything you thought about your story, everything you thought about yourself going into this thing – it’s all bullshit. You had no fucking clue. How could you? You hadn’t written it yet. You don’t learn without trying, and sometimes we don’t like what we learn.
You want those two years back? I do. I ain’t getting them back though, so come the fuck here you 148-page pile of shit, you are getting the fuck read out of you so that I can force you into a pleasing shape in order to sell you for money, because at the end of the day, what the fuck else am I going to do? I have no other plans. I have no other long-term prospects. I mean honestly if Honours doesn’t work out I’ll probably try and go back to psychology, or maybe counselling, just because I want to feel like I’m doing something with my life that helps people who need help. I have no guarantee of even making myself happy by selling books.
But that’s the plan I’ve got.
That’s the plan we’ve all got, whether it’s a good plan or not.
And this is the reality of our relationship with our stories: we’re too close and there’s not enough space. Ever. We’re flatmates; we’re lovers; we’re siblings; we are too fucking intimate and there is so little privacy and it burns you out and makes you hate yourself for who you’ve become because of how much you wanted this thing to work, how you couldn’t make it work the way you wanted it to. Even though a million other things are going on and they are all important and all need you to deal with them, and you know that you simply don’t have the capacity to do that, and it makes you inadequate as a human being. And because you know that you should, and do, still love this thing, although you don’t act like you care at all because it’s the only way you can seem to get any kind of distance at all. That is the situation. It sucks. It sucks hard. It sucks that something you love can become something you can’t stand even the thought of, can turn into something that repels and deflates and defeats you. But it can, and it does.
It’s you. It’s me. It’s us. It’s a bundle of ourselves that we scrape out and project away, sculpting it into narrative conventions and character traits and sub-plots and three-act structures and still, still no matter how hard we try or how strongly we try to believe it never stops being us. And so long as you want to tell stories – and you do, you know you do, no matter how much sometimes you know it would be more convenient if you didn’t – there is no way out of this rabbit-hole but through the other side.
So take all your hate, all your frustration, all your fear and shame and embarrassment and self-loathing, crippling anxiety and lack of life skills and turn on your computer.
Open your notebook.
Pick up your pen, your finger-paint, your nail-polish, your tattoo needle, your needles and yarn, your alphabet soup, your crayons and the wall, your chalk and the pavement, your spray-can and public property, your knife and tree-trunk, your chisel and stone, your heel in the wet sand, your breath on the glass, your ambition and trepidation, your body and your mind and your soul that trembles with the need to understand every fucking thing there is to understand, inside and out, better than anybody ever has before or ever will again, and to prove it to every infinity of the universe.
And then you write.