I just took down my review of Bleeding Violet, because I think it was something I shouldn’t have published to begin with. It was messy, it was probably offensive, and given the specific issues with that book – much as I really do adore it in many ways – offense is the last thing I want to cause. I’m in the process of re-writing it, and it might be a while until I release it, if ever. In the meantime, if anybody was hurt or offended by it: I am truly sorry, I should have thought more about I was writing before I wrote it, and I promise to draft anything and everything I write about such sensitive and important issues again.
So instead let me regale you with yet another post about how I was Doing So Well but yet again Everything Sucks because insert easily-avoidable self-inflicted obstacle here.
I mean that’s what you’re here for anyway, right? Seeing as it’s literally all I do on this blog?
In all seriousness though, I’m quite pleased with myself, because while it is true that I have not started writing my current passion project – partly because, like Tallulah, it’s just a bunch of ideas that I like entertaining rather than an actual story – I am actually fine with that. And that’s a big step for me. If you’ve followed me for any amount of time, you can probably recall me lamenting my lack of self-discipline or conviction or passion or what-the-fuck-ever excuse I had for why I needed to care about whether or not I was writing. It seems that, at long last, I’m learning to stop doing that, and it’s fucking great.
And it’ll probably get me to write more.
I mean the less shit you have to feel guilty about, the more you can focus on things you want to do. It’s something everybody living with anxiety or depression knows on at least some level; it’s just a matter of making it work for you that’s the kicker. I feel like this is working for me, like instead of shameful dishonourable procrastination my lack of writing is just a case of me pulling back an elastic band hooked on my thumb. Eventually, either it’ll snap on its own or I’ll decide it’s time to let go. Either way, something’s gonna go flying.
So I’m pretty optimistic right now.
And having said that: I said last time that Tallulah was officially a dead project. I think I need to make that a bit more official.
- Eulogy for Tallulah
I’ve told this story before, about how in 2010 – holy crap that was 5 years ago – I came up with an idea for a story that I never thought I would have, an idea that was So Not Me that I had to try and tell it. A story about the child of a selkie, left behind when her mother found her seal skin and returned to the sea, only to be reunited years later. What would that feel like? How would it turn out? I was intrigued.
I was afraid of not being able to write credible female characters; I think the fact that the selkie myth is so highly gendered only exacerbated this anxiety of mine, but through attempting to write Tallulah I learnt that, actually, it’s an anxiety I can get over. I’m not saying I’m actually any better at writing credible female characters than I was when I started (although, once again, thanks to my beta readers for your largely affirmative and always insightful criticism), but the process taught me so much. It taught me what it feels like to stick with a story beyond the honeymoon phase, going through to revision and discovering that by simply intending to go beyond that first landmark, there is a whole other experience of storytelling waiting. It taught me that I’m not a bad editor, and that I have something of the knack for decent narrative cohesion that I’ve always thought I did.
It also taught me that no matter how well you can remix and rematch the events of a first draft, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have a good story. It forced me to confront my propensity to put off big problems for far too long, something that I do in my non-writing life as well. It eventually taught me that the only way to deal with that in a productive way is to bite the bullet and admit that shit’s not working, and it’s not going to. It taught me that writing is fucking hard, because time spent does not equal progress made, and it could well be that all of that time spent is for almost nothing when you realise that starting over from scratch is the only way to tell the story the way it needs to be told. I say “almost” nothing because I did learn something: that I need to get more honest about what I’m ignoring or putting off so that I don’t have to drag it around with me, because it’ll weigh down not just me but everything I try to do.
It taught me that the most important things do remember while writing are to always take notes, to stick to your plan, to have an effective way to hold yourself accountable to your goals, to commit totally to those goals – and to be able to, at any time, completely change your mind. It taught me the absolute, non-negotiable importance of this contradictory dual principle of absolute commitment and absolute veto power. Because I am the only one writing this fucking thing, and it has to work for me.
The fact that I’m giving up on writing this specific fucking thing is due to one of the most important lessons I learnt from trying to write it for so long: that I am not a Writer. I am so grateful for this lesson, because it did two things: freed me from my obligation to narrow my entire life into a single pursuit, and opening me up to explore ideas for stories that I actually want to tell.
And now, the lesson I’m learning is that some of the reasons I have for telling stories are just unhelpful. A collage of cool ideas, a scene where interesting characters have interesting interactions, is not a story. A story is a story, and like being in love, you’ll just know when you’ve got a story. Stories have a feeling to them, and the reason I learnt this is because Tallulah never gave me that feeling, not in the 3 years I’ve been trying to tell it, not even once. It was only ever an awesome bunch of ideas. It was never a story. And that’s why I can’t tell it.
So I’m not going to.
Tallulah, you’re not a story. It was ambitious and hotheaded of me to try and force you into the form of a story. I can’t regret it, simply for everything I learnt as a result, but at the same time I do wish I’d known that there’s a very real difference between stories and ideas, and it’s a really simple one: ideas are ideas, and stories are stories. I wish I had not believed that any idea I had had to become a story, because otherwise there was no “point” to that idea. And I will always be grateful to you for teaching me that I do not have to live such a fucking sad life as that.
I am grateful for you, Tallulah.
I give up on you.
- For fun’s sake
These are all lessons I wish took a little more than they did, were a little more deep-rooted than they currently are within the soil of what I believe about myself. I don’t really believe I’ve given up on Tallulah, and I wish I could make myself. Though, if I’m gonna be honest about shit, I may as well just accept it. If it doesn’t feel like it, who cares? That’s just how it is.
And regardless of that, I am starting to feel a bit more “I write for fun motherfucker” about things. Which can only be a good thing. I’m feeling my ripping-shit-off blood rising, my fanfiction instincts revving up. And, happily, I’m at a point where they don’t have to. I could not write anything but my thesis in the next ten years and actually be totally happy. I think maybe I’ve learnt some of these lessons better than I’m giving myself credit for.
It’s sad to give up on Tallulah, even if I don’t fully believe that I have. Because it’s true that it was never really a story, and that I tried to tell it at a time in my life when I thought very differently about what stories were, or should be, or could be. When it was more about who I was as a person and what defined my worth, when it really wasn’t actually about stories at all.
I want it to be about stories. And I’m feeling like it’s starting to be that way again.
It’s also been feeling like I’m sitting really high up while I type all this, like there’s far more distance between my face and my arms than there actually is, so I suspect I’m very tired. It’s probably time to go to bed.