|And just like that, six months after starting, another novel is done.
I trivialize the effort and attention this thing actually required, of course, but only in the name of pointing out that it took me six years to complete its predecessor. The disparity is entirely due to the degree of focus I was able to devote to this latest work. It’s not-so-astounding, the things you cannot do when you’re surrounded by people who don’t believe in you and an environment that wants you to be doing anything else. Also not a revelation but encouraging at the same time to confirm that, in the right place with the right people, I do in fact have it in me to do this work.
I’m a writer, guys. I write books.
You know what else I’m good at? Editing. Time to do some of that now. The work of getting this stuff out into the world…? That’s ongoing, but steps are in motion.
The internet certainly has changed the world we live in. The rules of social engagement are different now and still shifting. It’s hard to navigate them at the best of times, especially when you’re autistic; throw social media into the mix and everything I think I know about the correct way to handle people and the delivery of news is… possibly wrong? Maybe? Or maybe I’m a trailblazer in the quest to open up new ways for us introverts to talk to people without having to actually talk to them?
Ahem. Getting off track.
This year has seen some massive changes in my life. Massive. Whom do you tell first? To whom must you speak privately before it’s a gaffe to talk about it on the Book of Face? Which things do you talk about? Which are none of the public’s business? How do you write publicly about private subjects that you nevertheless feel you should be open about for the greater good? (Pause while you echo, “The greater gooooooood.”)
Which is all to say that, finally having satisfied the (I believe) expected protocol of letting my private feed in on some of the massive things I’ve been working on this year, I think it is now acceptable to speak in public spaces as well.
As I stated some weeks ago, I finally escaped my own personal Hell in Arizona. To put it delicately, that Hell consisted of more than simply the location. It was ruled over by a particular person with whom I am no longer legally entangled, as of this month. Consider the suggestion box open as far as what type of cake is most appropriate for celebrating Sweet Sweet Freedom.
Big things happened on the road to that escape; it’s been a busy year. The upshot is that I am in a much better place, surrounded by good people, I’m safe and happy, and I’ve just finished editing the w-i-p – which is now no longer a w-i-p! This final draft is ready to be shopped, baby.
Onward and upward.
When you desperately need to get some sleep because you have to be up and doing things in just a few hours, but every time you try to close your eyes you realize you’re running lines of dialogue and description.
Pardon me while I indulge in a moment of squee, but I’m bursting with excitement and I need to shout this somewhere: I can see it, finally.
After realizing that I can’t write a scene unless I can see myself there, in it, I put myself through a series of sort-of-stupid-feeling visualization exercises. I made myself see the physical location of the scene, become familiar with its details, the props, the lighting. I populated it with background people and their motivations. I mapped out what my characters had to do in the scene, physically. Where they would start, how they had to move through the location, how long it would take them, where they would end up. What clothes they had on. What their postures would be as they spoke to each other. Anything I could think of, any visual detail.
And then I saw it.
Dimly, like the lights were low and I didn’t have my contacts in. But I could finally see myself there, see it happening. I could finally start transcribing the overheard dialogue, record the action. Slowly. Even though I’ve been writing other things all through the fallow year to keep myself in practice, it felt like I’d forgotten how. I kept at it, kept examining the details, re-rooting myself. The resolution started to clear.
That was four thousand words ago. That’s approximately three thousand and nine hundred more words than I’ve added to this manuscript in the entire past year combined.
As I typed up the final lines of the latest scene, I realized that what I was seeing at that moment was the next one, already. I know what it looks like. I was there. This is nearly it, nearly the end of the story, and I can see it.
It’s all hands on deck now, because this ship is about to make berth.
I’ve been having some (who am I kidding — ridiculous amounts of) trouble writing the final few chapters of this novel. At first, it was easy to blame summer and the pattern I have of never getting any meaningful writing accomplished, say, post-May until at-least-September-but-more-likely-October. But that was last summer.
That’s right. Basically zip in an entire year. And not for lack of trying. Really.
I know the advice: write anyway, no matter how hard it is, even if it’s garbage, every day. Bring yourself to the work if you expect the work to materialize. Believe me, I’ve given that a go. It hasn’t just been a year of browsing Tumblr for amusing puppy gifs and twiddling my thumbs. I’ve written and half-written and deleted the next scene so many times I’ve lost count, then given up and tried to break through whatever this is by writing something else instead. No dice of any kind. (I mean, yes, success at writing other things. But that has not, alas, transitioned into a successful push through the tough spot in the novel.)
And now I’ve just spent another evening hacking away at nothing I want to keep. Nothing that leads the story forward. As I was saving the paltry five words of alteration I made today in anticipation of closing the document, asking myself for the billionth time why it’s turning out to be so hard to just freaking write down what happens next, I realized it’s because I can’t see it to describe it and I’ve been trying to make the scene instead (the results of that all too apparent). Which in turn made me realize something else painfully obvious that I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t realize a long time ago: I’m apparently one of those writers. I can’t feel like I’m crafting. I have to feel like I’m describing things that I actually watched happen.
What to do when the scene won’t play, and all attempts to build it (like an actual damn storyteller and not a lazy special snowflake artist) meet with internal resistance because my subconscious thinks that’s not its job? That would appear to be the question.
Jiro is a bit of a 120lb distraction when I’m trying to write, but he thinks he’s being helpful.
Yashi, on the other hand, issues a flat denial:
Eventually, I manage to do a perfectly serviceable job of providing my own source of distraction by deciding I need to organize my photo folders when I can’t find something where it should be. I find this photo out of place and waste another few minutes introducing it to the internet.
Yep. I was productive with my quiet Saturday.
When another year dies, we have this tendency to convince ourselves that our arbitrary measurements of time have some meaning, and that they are defined by how much we’ve done in that span. As I get older, I’ve begun to realize that survival is itself an accomplishment we shouldn’t be so quick to brush off. The need we have to be constantly doing something, as though our existence lacks justification otherwise, is an evasion. Just background noise to fill the silence; busywork to keep our minds off of our own doubts over whether or not we are who we want to be.
And so I sit here at the start of a new year, unable to stop myself from examining my performance of the last twelvemonth at least a little. I did, after all, quite brazenly and with enormous bravado, decree last January that I would finish the zero draft of my novel before the end of 2012. It’s much easier to sweep such declarations under the rug when you don’t make them out loud. That’s why I made that one where everyone could see. I do my best work under pressure. Or so I tell myself.
While I didn’t actually manage a finished draft, I am calling my work of the last twelve months a success. It took nearly three years of my life and innumerable drops of (blood) sweat and tears just to accomplish the first fifty thousand words. Since then I’ve added more than one hundred and seven thousand. Yep, that’s right. Over a hundred thousand words in 2012, which is why I can’t be disappointed with myself. That’s a hell of a lot of work I made myself do no matter how hard it got some days to make my brain English. And even though the last several weeks of the year were filled with more non-verbal days than I would have liked — even though I may be pushing through a mini-slump even as this post hits the intertubes — I’m still going. Slow work though it may be, it’s happening. This story is heading into its climax and not even good old-fashioned writer’s inertia can stop it now.
So you can suck on that, 2012. I am not ashamed of you, no matter how much you may want me to be. We lived, we learned, we even took several steps forward together.