Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Proof of Insanity

(The following post expands greatly upon this previous post about being uncertain about my future. I felt like I was holding back the true extent of my neurosis on the topic and so this time around, thanks to a friend's advice, I'm just letting it all out.)

Writing a novel.
For practice, I assure you
Yet it wears me out

Let me tell you a story about a story. Two years ago I whipped out a blank notebook in class and started writing what I had anticipated to be a tragedy tentatively titled "Megan and Danny" after the main two characters. The notebook was missing a few pages so I only had about 50 or so to write on, and I was too foolish to use the front and back of each (so I had to condense). What resulted was a notebook filled from beginning to end with a detailed skeleton of a story.

Last year I started moving the story from the notebook to my laptop, while expanding upon areas I felt needed to be fleshed out. I gave the characters more characteristics and the scenes more detail. I wanted to present a finished version of that draft to my Fiction Writing class for feedback, so I finished the draft in a hurry and changed the ending from a tragic one to a hopeful one.

The overwhelming majority of the class seemed to be trying their best to let me down easy. They offered vague suggestions and complaints. I heard the dreaded phrase "It has potential", which is code for "it was a waste of my time". Also, someone told me it was a waste of their time.
One person seemed genuinely interested in the sexual tension; exclaiming that they wanted to read more when things got a little heated.
I got the message: this is far from finished.
I couldn't just drop the story; it was the first I'd ever written with a real driving passion. I spent about a month planning what the next draft should be like and then started over with a brand new document.

It's so much better, but it's still just practice.
The plot is unoriginal, which is a shame because I promise you that I have dozens of original ideas written down that haven't been done before (to my knowledge), so I've been focusing on beefing up the characters and events to make them the center focus of the story. At this rate the story will finish at double the length of the previous draft.

It's changing so much for the better.
Thematically it's still about how people change as they grow up, how time affects all of us in some way, and how some of us refuse to accept that. The scary thing is that there's a good chance that the theme is the only thing staying completely intact. Names are changing, character lists are expanding, inside jokes are being included, my memories are sneaking in, plots are thickening, alliances are being drawn, drama is brewing, love is blooming, and betrayal (and maybe even death) is looming.

I don't even know what genre it is anymore.
Whatever it is, it's fun. It's been exhilarating to create these characters and then put them through these events. (also some of the characters and events are based on real people and things that have happened, which makes it more fun because it's like keeping a journal of my favorite people and memories in a creative and productive format.) Yet it's been consuming my mind on a day-to-day basis. I'm obsessing over details I'm not including, I've been considering drastic plot changes that alter the entire tone and focus of the story, and all the while I've been more afraid than ever before that I'll never amount to anything.

In high school my hormones decided I would suffer from light depression for no good reason whatsoever, and now life is telling me that, while the meaningless depression is over, the stress I create for myself is present more than ever. Also my psychological tendency to doubt my significance on this planet has been heightened and partnered up with a legitimate fear of the future as my last year of college looms on the horizon.
I second guess everything.
Why am I writing a story I have so little faith in?
Why aren't I writing one of my more original ideas?

Why does it take me so long to finish a single page?
Why do I get so hung up on details that don't matter?
What if nobody likes my writing style?
What if nobody likes my ideas?
What if this is the best it ever gets?
What if I get distracted by life and never write again?

What if everyone tells me that my stories are terrible and I never write again?
What if I get into a car accident, lose my motor functions and never write again?
What if I step off the curb at the exact moment that a dragonfly passes by, causing me to lose balance and fall into oncoming traffic, killing me instantly and causing me to never write again?
What if the world ends tomorrow and I never get a chance to write again?

I guess I'll just have to write more and faster, which I admit will likely contribute to more stress.

No comments: