Might as well be mine

love coming up with perfectly reasonable solutions to my problems and then completely and utterly ignoring the fact that I’ve done so. That must be the case, otherwise I wouldn’t keep doing it, right?

I think having problems, hitting dead ends and coming up with solutions, isn’t really running into problems at all. It’s just part of the flow. Because it all gets done eventually, if you stick with it. If you just keep going. It does actually get done. I’m not saying you don’t have problems ever when you’re writing your story and things don’t feel right or you hit a brick wall or whatever; I’m saying that it’s not that you’ve failed to learn something if you don’t act on your inspirational solution right away – it’s just part of your flow.

That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

On that note, however, I realised that I am actually excited to do some new stuff with this story. I immediately feel worried to say that, because it’s been two fucking years and still I’m not finished and it’s taken so fucking long to even get to this point, which is just after the first revision of the zero draft …

I am excited to do new things, and I think maybe this story is not where I should do them. But that’s mostly because I have this voice in the back of my head saying: “If you don’t decide where to stop, you’ll never be finished”. It’s the idea that there is no “natural” stopping-point for a story. The idea that no story is ever truly finished, and that’s why writers torment themselves and first-time writers, such as myself (and I’ve been a first-time writer for the past 14 years so I should know), end up in a constant state of restarting and resetting and modification.

But I’m starting to think that this is actually bullshit. I’m starting to think that, actually, there is a natural stopping-point for a story, if you have the time to look for it – and most of the time, you don’t, because you’re writing to deadline, or other things come up, or you just get so fucking fed up with writing this particular story that you’ve been writing for so fucking long already and you’ll take an unsatisfactory and arbitrary-feeling stopping-point over prolonging your suffering any longer. Which, if I’m right in assuming that there is in fact a natural stopping-point for every story, is a rather sad thought.

But that is what I think. I think it because writing has “rules”, which I put quotation marks around even though they’re not needed, because of course they’re arbitrary; it’s fucking creativity. You cannot come up with objective rules of due process for creative endeavours, because creativity is like mercury. It just goes wherever.

Nevertheless, these rules exist, and within these rules is an implicit goal, otherwise the rules wouldn’t be put into place to begin with. If your story is about X, then surely you must have Y. Or, if you don’t have Y, it’s because you know it’s supposed to be there. And so on. There is a formula, and perhaps my mistake has been, for 14 years, assuming that I was better than the formula.

It’s not about being better. It’s about being good.

And I’m good. And if I stop trying to be better-than, perhaps I’ll finally get to live up to that.

I hit a roadblock because of logic, because of “in real life blah blah blah”, because I found myself facing a situation that I didn’t understand and that I “had” to write about.

If that’s the story, then that’s the story. I may wake up tomorrow and realise that I’m procrastinating, or I may go ahead and explore this new direction that I’m excited to go in. But this story has a natural stopping-point, and I haven’t found it yet, and I’m going to stick with it until I do.

Because if I’m going to spend my life telling stories, then they might as well be mine.

Stupid logic always ruining everything

I DON’T WANT TO SEND MY DEEPLY TROUBLED MAIN CHARACTER TO THE FUCKING SCHOOL COUNSELOR TO TALK ABOUT HER GODDAMN PROBLEMS THAT’S NOT ANGSTY ENOUGH

There’s this notion that us writers can write ourselves into a corner. We can set things up for ourselves in such a way that there is only one way out, and the implication is that it’s a way out that we don’t want to take. I find myself in this situation right now, and because I’ve spent all day waiting to be able to play the Heroes of the Storm alpha only to find that it’s undergoing extended maintenance and probably won’t be available until tomorrow and have therefore gotten precisely fuck all work of any kind done, it is a corner that I very much want to write my way out of, right the hell now.

Now, there is a very simple way to avoid this cul-de-sac where writing enthusiasm comes to die: write something else. See, this corner that I’ve written myself into is not set in stone. It’s made out of thoughts and words, not physical matter. I can turn it into a highway, or a meadow, or a fucking swing-set if I so desire. In every important sense of the word, there is literally no problem here.

Except.

Except for the fact that, as somebody who is a stickler for “realism” … certain things have to happen.

And because of that, this corner that I’ve written myself into is, in fact, unavoidable.

Unless I stop caring about realism.

This was actually something I got excited about a few days ago; I felt actual EXCITEMENT at the merest NOTION that I could potentially not give a fuck about what makes sense in real life and instead use story-logic to solve my problems. The giddiness that almost swept me away at that prospect was really quite delightful. And now it’s gone, because I am a miserable perfectionist and I really wish I was not right now.

But okay. Self-awareness time. I mean that’s our thing as human beings, right? Self-reflexivity and shit? Surely if I know what the problem is, I can work out the solution to it.

Surely if I know that I’m in a corner, I can leave it.

But is there any choice in where I end up?

When I started re-reading Twilight this year, and then stopped soon afterwards, two things struck me at once. The first was that Bella had depression and possibly social anxiety.

The second was that Stephanie Meyer was not aware of this.

Other than suddenly feeling very concerned for Stephanie Meyer, I really did not like that there was this very obviously mentally ill young woman on the page who was not getting the help that she needed from the story that she was the central focus of (thus I was also prepared to be very angry with Stephanie Meyer). Mental illness is something that our society is still really shit at helping people cope with in a healthy, safe and respectful way, because our society is not healthy, safe or respectful in many ways that it desperately needs to be. The last thing that I want is to perpetuate this toxic ignorance in my own works, especially as somebody who at least had and possibly still has depression and at least mild social anxiety (hence why I identified what Bella was going through, even if Stephanie Meyer didn’t), and I can’t help but think that if Bella had gone and talked to a counselor …

What am I even thinking. No mere trained mental health professional could ever understand why a nondescript 16-year-old white girl, whose parents are separated and has just moved to a new town to live with her father while her mother goes on a baseball tour with her stepfather, feels the way she does. How could I be so crass as to even suggest such a thing.

*cough*

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a positive depiction of a counselor in a film or book; I’m sure they’re out there, but I have yet to see one. The closest you generally get is the Wise Old Mentor character. Dumbledore was a pretty blatant example of this, with each book save the final two ending with what I came to call the “post-traumatic-chat-with-Dumbledore”. Dumbledore then turned out to be a manipulative utilitarian asshole, so once again the counselor character fails. And that’s only assuming that the Wise Old Mentor is anything like a good substitute for an actual counselor, which they aren’t. It’s a parallel at best.

Because here’s the thing: getting an answer to your problems is not exciting, not by conventional narrative wisdom anyway. You gotta have tension, drama conflict. I think that’s probably why so many counselor/therapist characters end up being useless in mainstream media: the people who are creating these stories aren’t trying to be true to life, but true to the agreed-upon rules of storytelling. It’s cheap and lazy, as far as I’m concerned, but I do get the logic behind it, assuming that “logic” here means “doing what you’ve been told you’re supposed to do”.

It seems as though, if you’re going to write about mental illness at all, the corner is written for you already, and it’s only a matter of time before you end up in it. And as far as I can see, there only seem to be two ways out of it:

  1. Have the counselor be dysfunctional in some way (for a particularly chilling example, see Dressed to Kill or play Alice: Madness Returns) to create drama
  2. Have all problems solved and lose all stakes

That seems to be the dichotomy that storytellers feel they are faced with when attempting to incorporate these kinds of issues into their work.

Here’s the thing, though: actually seeing a counselor is anything but a magical solution to your problems. It’s a whole story in and of itself. It’s probably the most Hero’s Journey scenario you will ever enter into in real life: you come from the Ordinary World (your life before seeing a counselor), get a Call to Adventure (making an appointment), and perhaps you end things there and never see the counselor again (a lot of people know that there’s help out there but simply don’t want to seek it out, often because of the ridiculous social stigma around even admitting to having mental health issues, let alone seeking help for them) – but if you do go back, then it’s straight up crossing of Thresholds and confronting Gatekeepers (working through and confronting your issues) and finding the Elixir (hopefully – this is the part where your counselor helps to identify what’s bothering you and what steps you can take to make things easier for yourself); and after that you’ve still got to go back to the Ordinary World, taking the Elixir with you while you are Pursued on the Road (to recovery, in this case), and then sharing that Eilxir with the world, changing it forever (putting what you’ve learnt into practice). “Getting help” is not synonymous with “solving all of your problems effortlessly”, especially in the case of dealing with something like depression. Because quite often, people see multiple counselors, or see the same counselor over a long period of time; people relapse or find themselves stuck in different ways – life is messy, and some solutions are not permanent. Many are on-going. If that’s not enough drama for a story, I don’t know what is.

So by this logic, Twilight could have had a counselor character in it who just came in much later because Bella didn’t want to accept that she had a problem that needed looking at in that context – maybe they could have been a sort of less awful Van Helsing kinda person, if we’re going with the Wise Old mentor archetype – and still kept the story moving. In fact it might have made the story move quite a lot more if that were to happen.

And okay, there’s one instance of showing that there’s far more than one way out of the corners we can write ourselves into; that’s good, yes? I can now apply this insight to my own writing and proceed with renewed confidence because I have seen that I am not locked-in to just one outcome, right? That’s what’s happened?

Is that what’s happened?

It’s not, is it?

Dammit, brain!

It’s been an ambition of mine to be less of a perfecitonist; I seem to sort of yo-yo on that front, sometimes able to suspend my pedantic fastidiousness and still enjoy what I’m doing, other times paralysed by unappealing choices that seem like the only “right” way to proceed.

It’s infuriating. But I’m sure, eventually, I’ll think of something. It may mean coming up with new stuff. Maybe I’m okay with it. I mean I was pretty excited for that a week ago.

It’s just that, if I’m going to do that, I may as well just write an entirely different story.

Maybe I should just write an entirely different story.

UGH fuck this shit I’m going to bed.

Something ACTUALLY new?

I rewrote chapter 1 of Tallulah a couple of days ago, and it felt – mostly – better. Cleaner. Tighter. More to the point and in-keeping with its core.

Now I’m on to chapter 2 and I hate what my plan is, so I suppose I either need a new plan for what happens in chapter 2 or to just suck it up and write it.

Or.

I could just skip ahead and write some other part of the story.

This is a solution that I have never taken while writing; I always write from start to finish, and while I have written out-of-sequence scenes for stories, most of the time they end up being stand-alone moments rather than part of a narrative, simply because up to this point I have never written the rest of those stories for them to link back into.

But in this case, it might be the best solution.

I mean it’s easy enough to just do away with the change I was going to make, or just find a way to do it better than what I have in mind right now, which is probably mostly unappealing because while I thought it would be a good idea, it’s not an idea that I like. So I’ll have to find some kind of balance there, and I’m not sure how that’s going to happen.

In the meantime, though, I’ve actually planned a fair bit of this second draft, so I could actually jump ahead and work on some stuff later down the line and not mess up the continuity. I think. I’m pretty sure. I’d just have to keep a record of what’s going on, which I should be doing anyway.

But …

This feels new.

This feels like I’m actually not just going around in circles when I write, like I’m not learning anything ever and keep repeating the same cycles of dysfunction and frustration; and perhaps it’s not dysfunctional and I just judge my process very unkindly and/or inaccurately. In any event, I feel like I’ve actually learnt a new trick, and I’m kind of keen to try it out.

And ultimately, it means that the other stuff hasn’t changed, either – that eventually shit does get written, if I make myself write it.

I still think this draft is on the right track. I think it’s the right thing to do. And upon reflection, yeah, I do think I judge my process far too harshly. Stopping and starting is what happens when you think all you have to do is X, and then in attempting to do it you realise you needed to do W first, and it feels like you’re going backwards and it’s annoying. That’s how this feels. Except now I know I can skip right ahead to Z if I want, and both W and X will still be there when I get back.

Which is the other thing: this problem still needs to be addressed at some point. But I don’t have to do it now. It will hold things up at some point; but it doesn’t have to be now. And if it’s not now, if I go ahead and do the other thing instead, perhaps I’ll have thought of a solution by the time I’m done.

I believe this is what we call a win-win situation.

I believe I’m all right with that.

Nothing compares 2 u

Oh god it feels so GOOD to be writing again.

I’ve written perhaps 2k new words, shifted structurey stuff around and updated some prose; I’m trying really, really freaking hard to put words down and not edit them as I go, and it’s not working, but I’m still trying anyway. I may finish for the night; I may not. I’ve made quite a lot of progress. There’s one bit I’m thinking I’ll end up changing back to the way it was before but mostly this feels really, really right. And also I just got a one-week extension on the book review I was supposed to hand in next Wednesday so that means I get to spend more time with my precious story I love it so much I am enjoying this so much this feels so good it is GETTING DONE FUCKING CHRIST AFTER 8 MONTHS OF HAVING NO CLUE WHAT TO DO IT IS FINALLY MOVING THINGS ARE HAPPENING AND STUFF AND I HAVE A FUCKING STORY TO TELL AND I AM TELLING ITTTTTTTTTTTT

So yeah relatively pleased with how things are progressing thus far, will keep you guys posted moving forward.

An exercise in decision-making

This isn’t really a post; this is just me trying to motivate myself to start putting this fucking fantastic plan for draft 2 into action instead of just sitting on my hands and asking myself what I should do.

*ahem*

You should write this second draft, Jason. You should write it because it is a good idea. It brings all of these disparate and awkwardly spaced-out bits and ties them together in a coherent narrative line. You should write it because it made you really excited a couple of days ago and fuck knows I could do with some excitement. You should do it because you want to do it.

You should also do it because it’s been about three days and instead of doing this work on it you’ve just been sitting here not-doing it, and trawling Tumblr for hours instead. Obviously the shit going down in Ferguson is important; obviously feminism is still important. But while you’re having 30-second existential crises every time you reblog something without knowing if you should add a comment to critique dodgy bits because maybe they’re not actually dodgy and you’re just ignorant, every time you scroll down to see what’s there for the sake of seeing what’s there, every minute and hour you spend on Tumblr is time you’re spending not getting this second draft started, let alone finished. And I know you want to start this second draft.

I know it because it’s the only thing keeping you from getting back to those other stories you also want to write, that time spent writing this story is time you can’t spend writing those stories. And because this story means a lot to you. It’s your first “real attempt” to write a book from the zero draft all the way through to the final draft and then, at long last, send it off for publishing because that’s been your dream since you were 13 years old. And there’s been a lot of questioning around that dream, questions of who you would be, what your mood would be like, whether you would have gotten so depressed or dependent or painfully sensitive if you had instead gotten really passionate about martial arts or rock-climbing or acting at age 13, something less internal and isolating. I know there’s a lot of regret and conflict about this writing dream that you haven’t really given yourself time to address.

The fact is, though, that you love writing now. Whatever might have happened then – well, it didn’t. This happened instead, and all things considered you could have done a lot worse. What’s important now is that you can do better. You can get started on this second draft. Yes, all the old problems have come back: you want to procrastinate so that you “have more time”; you feel anxiety because you want to “get it right” when you do actually sit down to write your story. And I mean fuck it, I’m just you using a narrative device to try and split yourself into two selves, one who is pragmatic and motivational and another who is uncertain and waffling. I can’t tell you anything you don’t already know by now. I can give you the same advice you’ve always tried to follow: always take notes, let yourself write badly for the sake of getting something written, chart your progress, stick to the plan – nothing’s changed. It worked well enough in the past; it should probably work well enough now in the present.

Write this second draft because there is nothing new, no new insight, no sudden epiphany that is about to drop on you if you just wait it out a little longer. And yeah, maybe you should keep reading your current manuscript at the same time as you write the new draft, or read the manuscript before you start writing the second draft. I mean that might be a legitimately good idea. I don’t know. We haven’t tried either yet.

Write this second draft because it’s the only way to find out if it’s a good idea, and because on a list of pros and cons, it’s mostly pros. It seems like mostly a good idea to write this second draft.

I don’t think it’ll ever get any better than “mostly a good idea”, to be honest. And you don’t have to make this decision alone. You’ve got me. We can make it together.

Okay?

Okay.

And now I’m done being two people. Self-contradiction is normal. Why try to turn it into something else?

I’m probably not ready to write it, honestly. I do actually want some security, to read the rest of the manuscript first.

I want a proper plan to work with. I mean it’s just stupid to not give myself a proper plan to work with.

~~~

Started writing. Turns out it was the right decision after all.

Good talk.

Startling developments

As I travel on the emotional rollercoaster that is procrastinating so that I don’t have to be writing right now, as old ideas and feelings and connections bubble to the frothing surface of my totally-going-to-sit-down-and-write-now ocean, I have come to a very disturbing – and poetic conclusion – about one of the primary influences of my current work in progress, Tallulah.

A bit of backstory: the conception of Tallulah was a mix of things. I had a very isolated idea, more of an image really, of this melancholy young woman whose mother was a selkie. I had an existential-political gender crisis while on the bus a few days after deciding this idea would become a story, panicking over the fact that I had no way to authentically write a teenage girl – mythological seal-people are no problem, because you can make those up. You can’t make up teenage girls. They’re real. I was (and still am) very worried about my writing abilities in that regard.

And I also wanted to tear Twilight a new one – and all of YA paranormal romance, none of which I had actually read except for Twilight.

The normalised patriarchal, controlling, abusive, manipulative, paternal, absolutely uncritical misogyny; the racism; the absolute lack of plot; the fact that all the side-characters (Bella’s schoolmates) are a billion times more interesting than any of the main character (except for Jasper, Rosalie and CHARLIE) – I liked a few things about Twilight, and most of the things that I liked came from the film, not the books (or the sequel films), but those things were what stood out for me because they seemed to be the things that the fanbase were justifying and romanticising. It worried me, it infuriated me, and it aroused within me the urge to crusade against this lunacy, this erosion of society’s moral fiber.

Looking at my story with freshly-inspired eyes, remembering old ideas and why I liked them and getting excited about them all over again because I may now have the opportunity to work them back in, I have realised that so much of what I like about my story …

Is stuff that I like about Twilight.

Yes, I have discovered that TWILIGHT, a story that I have been bashing on for the past four or five years, turns out to be perhaps the single biggest influence on Tallulah that I have.

I honestly don’t know what to make of this. But the more I think about it, the more it makes sense.

Because there is stuff to like about Twilight. Again, mostly talking the first film here, directed by the brilliant and criminally disrespected (with regards to this franchise at least) Catherine Hardwicke.

It’s got those supporting characters in the students, who act like actual teeangers and bring some humanity to Bella’s world, and unlike in the book she seems to actually like these people, even if she’s not super-close with them; it’s got that wonderful visual tone that combines dread and wonder and just looks right; it’s got Bella’s relationship with Charlie (and the less-explored but still great relationship with her mother); it’s got the other Cullens; and it’s got Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, who I will defend forever in their portrayal of two really messed-up people awkwardly falling in love. No, the problematic stuff is not gone, nor is it any less problematic; but it’s easier to stomach because it’s compensated for a bit by the much-needed injection of humanity into the story. The good things were made better, some of the bad stuff was removed completely (such as Bella completely disregarding and looking down upon her schoolmates), and the end result was just … I love it. I don’t think that’s too strong of a word. I love it.

And that’s the stuff that’s inspired Tallulah, taking what I saw either done badly or not well enough and wanting to do it properly, much as Tolkien read Macbeth and responded with the Ents. I love the dynamic between Bella and her schoolmates; I love her relationship with Charlie; I love the ridiculously awesome future in-laws; I love the feeling of discovery intermingled with self-esteem issues overlaid with this air of isolation and mystery intersecting with the everyday. And I do like the kindred spirits thing that she and Edward have – again, in the film specifically.

It’s really infuriating to see great ideas go to waste on a shitty story. I haven’t just copy-and-pasted these relationships into my story; they’ve all evolved into their own things and taken on their own identities, which is kind of inevitable and very much a relief. But the parallels are unmistakable, and I can’t believe it took me this long to realise that they’re not only there but integral parts of this story’s identity.

I’m actually quite happy about it.

I still detest Twilight in most regards. But having it as an influence is actually something I’m quite happy to admit upon reflection. Not simply because there is some good stuff about it, but because it’s something I’ve invested a lot of energy into and can now say, definitively, that it’s paid off in some substantial way. My only love sprung from my only hate and all that. Not only, in either case, but you get the idea. Like any negative experience, our experiences are always ours. If we can’t get anything out of them other than that they’re negative experiences, that’s fair enough. But on the occasions where something good comes out of it, that’s worth claiming. That’s worth being proud of.

Even if it is being directly influenced by Twilight.

 

Mood swing

In my excitement over starting work on an actual real-life second draft of my novel, I realised that part of what I was excited about was a distinct change in the story’s atmosphere. After not just the “skeleton draft” I did last year but also the following 8-9 months of internalised stewing over story elements in my head, detached from the written reality of the manuscript, it became obvious that what excitement I had was for a story that was strikingly different to the one I’d written, that I had progressed more in fantasy and speculation about my story than in writing it, and that this imagined pre-story had become my locus of enthusiasm.

The biggest marker of change was with the main, titular character, Tallulah. I first wrote her as a character who was, at the time, refreshingly free from the bonds of authorial self-insertion that had impinged my efforts to articulate a main character in any story I attempted to write who felt authentic, true to themselves instead of my experience. As time went by and I read what I’d actually written, the clearer it became to me that I had no idea what I had based that hopeful assumption upon, because Tallulah, it turned out, was so infuriatingly similar to me that it disrupted the logic of the story, of her story. But as I wrote the skeleton draft, read over it again (and again; this last time was the third read-through and I’m now on the fourth) and let these impressions intermingle with my idealistic fantasy of a story and a character that I had “gotten out of the way of”, the more optimistic I became of realising that story – a story that came from me, but was not about me.

Now that conceit of being able to “get out of the way” of your story – depending on how you approach storytelling, your mileage will vary. I see it as a deception, though not in the generic sense of deception being a bad thing; I see it as a means of using a combination of attitude and superstition in order to produce a desired effect, namely that of being able to tell a story that is not recognisably a thinly-veiled self-insert power fantasy. I think it’s a good deception, insofar as it is deployed as a means to a worthy end, and is as far as I can tell a means that will not hurt anybody.

But what I’m starting to realise now is that, actually, trying to take yourself out of your story should never be the point to begin with. It’s like trying to take your genetic code out of your biological child: you can’t do it. And because you can’t do it … it’s not that you can’t worry about it, and it’s not even that it’s wrong to worry about it (especially if we’re actually talking about biological children because there’s hereditary issues to take into account), but in the end no change can be affected along those lines. You’re stuck with it, like it or not.

It doesn’t have to be a bad thing, having bits of yourself stuck in your story, painfully, embarrassingly obvious as they may be to you, the one telling the story. For one thing: it could be that nobody else notices. For another: the “you” in your story is where your voice comes from.

And most importantly: you are not unique. These things that remind you of yourself whenever you read through your manuscript and make you cringe and wince and write angry ranty comments in the margins – they’re not unique to you. Statistically speaking anyway. They are uniquely yours, in the sense that nobody can have your experience of X, but they are also very much not uniquely yours in the sense that perhaps anybody can have an experience of X.

For me (slight spoiler), it’s depression. Obviously I can only talk about my personal experience of depression, and I would never presume to talk about it from a position of objective authority on the matter of depression in general; it affects everybody differently. But this is what I’ve learnt from it: in the wake of Robin William’s untimely death and the flood of personal stories published in memorial that dealt with each writer’s personal experience of depression, it has become clear to me that I actually don’t have depression anymore. Or just that it’s been in remission for an incredibly long time. That was a realisation that had been creeping up on me for a few years, now that I think about it, and the response around this tragedy has had a positive effect in that people have felt moved to speak out on an issue that is still criminally misunderstood and left in the silent margins of public discourse – and that perhaps I’m not the only one who has come to understand their relationship to this disease a little better through that speaking out.

Depression was written into the fabric of Tallulah from the start, from the pacing to the prose to the plot. This new, revolutionary version of the story I’m so excited to start writing is much more mobile, empowered, and yearning for something to grasp and use and experience. I couldn’t have thought of that story while I was in the doldrums of depression, which is a grey, leaden blanket that leeches not only your energy but your sense of time, until there is only the past and the future, and each is never-changing.

Or so I thought.

What I realise now is that, actually, yes, I could have thought of that story while I had depression, because while depression certainly affects your thoughts – it is a mental illness after all – it does not destroy them. It does not kill your mind; it sedates it, cruelly and relentlessly, and what makes it so terrible is that you know that’s not all that’s in you, that at one point there was something else, positivity and verve and vigour, but that it’s past – that apathy is the new normal. But it is a new normal. There was another one. And for that reason, there is always hope, even if frustratingly distant and out of reach, like seeing a meadow from behind prison bars as you carry out a life sentence. It’s still there. You are still there. Your mood changes, your habits change, your priorities change. But you are still there.

And at the same time, no, you’re not. You’re entirely different. The first real breakthrough I had, after parting ways with my at-the-time-best-friend at age 20, I felt like I had “come back”; the “before” version of me had suddenly returned and it was like nothing had changed. And that’s because nothing had changed. That me had stopped developing at a certain point, and I picked up from where I left off. Over time there was a convergence as the past and present mes grafted together, and that was someone new as well, and yet exactly the same.

My point is that just because your mood changes, it doesn’t mean you change. And I guess I’m really talking about your history, and your storytelling. Just because you’re okay now doesn’t mean you weren’t not okay before; just because you’re not okay now doesn’t mean you weren’t okay before. And just because you’re one or the other right now doesn’t mean you can’t imagine the other. I’ve spent a strangely long time implicitly believing that was the case, and looking at the shift in mood in my story, I finally comprehend a really embarrassingly obvious fact, which is that just because a life or a story is happy, it doesn’t mean there is no sadness in it. Or anger, or regret, or confusion, or apathy – just because something is happy doesn’t mean that it’s all it is. And I really would have hoped that I could have understood that before now.

But whatever. Now’s good enough.

And now, after two thirds of a year struggling to make progress, I’m gonna write this fucking second draft.