This draft is …
When I wrote it, I wanted it to go somewhere specific, and it didn’t. While I was writing it, I kind of wanted to be having a different experience to what I was having at the time.
In less than a week, I will live in a new house. This information has yet to sink in.
This is perhaps why I have not emailed all my tutors/lecturers/whoever is in charge of this stuff to ask for extensions on my final essays, also why I have not started packing and instead told myself “I can just do it the night before” about a thousand times, waiting for it to feel true. It’s a theory, certainly.
Happily, something that is not constrained by the deadlines of the real world is creative writing. Well, not in the same way at least. I enjoy writing Tallulah when I get the chance, or revising it, or editing it. I’m always learning something from it.
That’s as far as I got. I think it was just because, as happens while managing a blog, your train of thought sometimes grinds to a halt.
But I’m putting this one up because storytelling comes from your lived experiences. “Write what you know” is perhaps the most redundant writing advice there is, because you literally cannot avoid doing it if you write at all. This got very circular when I kept a journal between the ages of … I think 17 to 19. I wrote about not having a life, and I did things in order to be able to write about them, looked forward to having experiences not for their own sake but in order to turn them into material for my journal.
Moving house was a sort of echo of that period of my life. I just really felt nothing in particular about it. I think that was because I was ready to move, had been ready for some time without ever having had cause to think of it that way. But I worried that something was wrong with me for not feeling more anxious, more melancholy, more nostalgic, for not feeling the dawning realization that I was about to lose everything that I’d ever known and be moved by the urge to go walk around the house One Last Time and take everything in. Instead I felt like I’d had all my last moments – or rather that those last moments weren’t anything I needed. I didn’t feel the way I understood people to feel in this situation, and it concerned me.
We all want to be predictable, to a certain degree, in certain situations. This was mine. It would be easy to explain it away as just another part of my insecurities about not having a “normal” life and therefore not being able to relate to people in terms of shared life experiences – and, of course, the difficulty in being able to write stories and characters that people outside of myself could relate to. But that’s too deterministic for my liking. That’s certainly an anxiety that I’ve lived with for as long as I’d been aware of it as a fact of my life, and in terms of the outcome – yeah. This experience isn’t one that I’d expect most other people to have in the same situation.
But that wasn’t how it felt. That wasn’t my worry. My worry was simply that I was going to miss out on something that I was supposed to experience – and why? Was it because I wasn’t honest enough with myself? That I was in shock and hadn’t processed it fully? That I was in denial about what was going on? That I was just so habituated to not caring about what went on beyond the confines of my cerebral cortex that I was too desensitized to be able to care? Or that it just really wasn’t that big of a deal to me, and that was all that there was to it, the plain and simple, disappointing truth?
And of course, the move put paid to any plans I had for doing anything beyond, well, moving. I stopped revision. I stopped essay-writing. I didn’t even have a desk in my room until the third day of the move (thankfully I got my bed set up on the first day). The most worrying thing is that the feeling that I had while we were still at the old house hasn’t actually gone away. I’m in a new place, I’m functioning in it, but I still haven’t really gotten settled – I still don’t feel like I belong here. I didn’t realize that was the feeling until I had moved, and now I see that it was the same feeling that I carried over with me from the old house. I still don’t feel like I belong where I am. I’m still waiting for something, for some definitive, recognizable experience to tell me where I’m at and what I should be doing. Predictability is comforting. Predictability feels like safety.
There was a time not so long ago where I would have thought myself rather pathetic for having such cliche thoughts. Right now, I’d rather be honest than original.
I’m still waiting to be included in acting out the script I think everybody else is reading off, because without it I don’t know how I’m supposed to understand my own life.
And when you’re telling stories – when you’re writing books with the intention of ultimately putting them out into the world and hopefully attracting a large audience – you want the advantage of having your stories be comprehensible by that audience, recognizable and familiar content even if it’s in an unfamiliar package. So you guess. You guess, estimate, perhaps look at statistics to get a read on what it is that “people” are into, what “their” interests and experiences and values and beliefs are, and anything that deviates from that is so easy to get caught-up in thinking of as either an attractive novelty gimmick or an immersion-breaking exposure of your ruse, revealing the fact that you’re only pretending to be one of “them”.
I don’t think it’s stupid. I think it’s true. There are certain experiences that “most people” – within a specific, perhaps very large demographic – will not be able to immediately relate to, or understand as normal. There are majorities and minorities of experience-holders if you will, and not everything translates well.
But it doesn’t have to. Life isn’t a story, and I can tell you from personal experience that life also sucks if you try to use it as material for a story, rather than living life for its own sake, whatever that life may be.
Whether it’s cutting against the grain or moving with the herd, life is more than how many of your experiences you can match up with those of others. In fact, that’s really depressing to even think about. I feel like I’ve missed out on appreciating so many things over the last few years all because I got to a point where I actually wanted to fit in with the people around me, to feel like I belonged, to feel normal.
Piling on the cliches tonight, aren’t I …
Here’s the truth: unless you put it out there – or unless somebody else does – you will never know if you’re alone in what you’ve gone through in life. You will never know if you’re the only person in the world who ever worried that you were being too sensitive when you got upset with a group of friends who were all talking amongst themselves and seemed to forget that you existed. You will never know if you’re the only person in the world who ever lay on the bedroom floor to read instead of doing it in bed, because it feels less scripted. You’ll never know if you’re the only person in the world who failed somebody you care about a long, long time ago and still haven’t gotten over it.
That’s all inside of you, yes, but it doesn’t mean it’s not outside and around you, too. It’s not always you vs everyone else in the world. I’m not one to say “be a rebel” for the sake of being interesting; rebellion should be a political action with some important impetus behind it. Like feminism, for instance. But I will say that if you feel different – fucking appreciate it. Run with that shit. I’m only literally right fucking now starting to understand why “be yourself” is so important, and I’m 27. I was meant to have gone through this phase like a decade ago, according to my script.
But that’s the whole point. My script isn’t really mine. It isn’t anybody else’s, either. It isn’t even a script. It’s a shopping-list.
Write your script as it happens. Let it be what it is for its own sake, because it can’t be anything else. But even if you get stuck on wishing it was, like I’ve been doing for the past I don’t even want to think how long, just know that there’s always time. You can have that experience.
And when you do, you’ll be so full of relief and release that there won’t even be room for regret. It’s a win-win.
When you’re ready. I guess I’m ready now.
I’m really glad I kept this draft.
Life is not a story, nor is it for stories. But it is where stories come from. And whatever your stories are, they’re the stories of your life. Treat them as the precious things that they are.