Old Habits: Tallulah’s Progress P3

It has been a long time, like 2 years long, since I wrote an iteration of a chapter of Tallulah instead of forging ahead with what I had and crossing my fingers, hoping that it would turn out for the best.

I’m going to do that tonight for two reasons: 1) it’s a good attitude to adopt, I’ve found, getting used to the idea of treating your drafting process as a chance to, y’know, draft; and 2) starting off the way you intend to finish is also a good habit to get into.

Despite it not being the new, more light-hearted, humourous version of Tallulah I got excited over at the start of the year, I like what I wrote a few nights ago. It’s introspective, it’s angsty, it tries to articulate deeply intimate and convoluted emotions, and I want to have it available to me in case I want it again in the future. But it’s also not part of the story that I want to tell right now. That story is more light-hearted and humourous, and I owe it to myself to give it a shot and see if I can make it work. That, after all, was the entire premise behind my even attempting to write Tallulah to begin with: it was a story that I didn’t know if I could tell faithfully, an idea that seemed like it was supposed to have come out of somebody else’s imagination, an idea that I thought could easily end up being “ruined” if I tried to tell it for the fact that it was totally unlike any idea I’d ever had before, totally alien to my sensibilities at the time. That fact alone was enough of a reason for me to try, to test the limits of my imagination – and confidence. And the experiment was successful in that I do feel much more confident to try out ideas that I’m uncertain about, ideas that don’t feel like they’re mine, like they should have come out of somebody else’s imagination – because they didn’t. They came out of my imagination, and there must be a reason for that.

The same principle, I think, can apply to this new version of Tallulah that I want to try out. It’s kind of the opposite, taking this idea that wasn’t at all “like me” and making it more like me – an older version of me, a younger me who was very much about humour and dynamism rather than introspective philosophising, but tempered with experience of how darkness and humour mix together in real life, the kinds of reactions that come about as a consequence of their combination. Tallulah has been a very introspective story right from the start, and while I don’t want to lose that, I do think it needs lightening – not because it’s “too dark”, but because that darkness risks losing its meaning if there’s nothing to contrast it with. I guess I’m afraid that it doesn’t have an “edge”, and what sharper edge could there be for a body of darkness than something that traditionally serves as an opposite – in this case, humour?

There’s always the risk that it’ll backfire and come off as really inappropriate. There is some very dark stuff in Tallulah, and the last thing I want is to turn that dark stuff into humour. That’s not the intention. The intention – and the hope – is that I can use humour to give that darkness more of an edge, and a very particular edge: the edge of self-deprecation. Because self-deprecation is a survival mechanism, and among other things, Tallulah is a story about survival, about coping. Hopefully it comes out that way when I write it.

I still want to know if I can tell the story of Tallulah that came to me several years ago, the idea that I never thought I was even capable of having. But I now also think that the way I tell that story is through embracing my own way of telling stories, rather than trying to turn myself into a different storyteller for the sake of an existential experiment. I love imitation; I am still trying to get comfortable with doing that in my own work, because the most fun I’ve ever had in creating – and telling – stories always came with a lot of carefree copying. In that sense, the challenge of adopting a totally alien voice to tell a story with is still an appealing one, just to prove that I can do it. But while appealing, it’s not important to me. Tallulah is. Telling my story is, even if, to begin with, it didn’t feel like my story at all.

So I guess I’ll try it and see what the end result is. Having said all of this I really haven’t given much thought to how I’d write this new light-hearted, humourous version of Tallulah; as per usual all of my preliminary planning is mapped out in cinematic sequences, images and sound and camera angles rather than words. I have rather put myself on the spot with this decision. But maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Nothing like being put on the spot for creativity.

That’s a saying, right?

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