Friday, March 17, 2017

Rewrite, Resubmit, or Restart?

After reading the first few chapters of my manuscript in a writer’s group, I mentioned how the last was one of my least favorites. Something was wrong, I felt. “I don’t like it much.” A woman looked at me, honestly baffled, “Why?”

It was her favorite, by far. It was also the oldest. The pages prior had been completely rewritten, over five versions of the beginning. The truth was, it didn’t have the same pomp for me because it wasn’t as new and shiny as the rest. But it stayed for a reason.

The submission process goes as expected, but a shocking result is my lack of interest in writing all together. As I trudge onward, one step at a time, I look to my next manuscript and consider its potential, what it lacks, and feel overall… apathetic.

I’ve lost interest in writing over the last few months. Unlike when I was in the height of my depression, where I didn’t lose the desire, just the focus, I haven’t thought much about my books or my career. I’ve been examining my life outside of it.

I came to New York because I didn’t know what I wanted, and I figured I’d go to the city that has everything. It’s been fun, but I’m starting to wonder if it’s for me. I love it here, but the high cost of rent doesn’t seem to make sense for what I really want to be doing…

Creating. Without the pressure of doing it well.

Don’t get me wrong, the challenge of doing it well is part of the fun. Analyzing the success, editing, tweaking, planning, and the hopes of having it impact another person are all motivators. But right now I just want to sit at home and play the violin. I want to quilt. I want to paint. And yes, I want to write, even though it has rarely crossed my mind.

This the first time I’ve been this broke, this worried about money. Lucky me, yes? Yes, actually. I do feel grateful that if I needed a thousand dollars I could find it somehow. Not easily, of course, but I have some options before I get knocked out on the streets. I knew all my pay would be going to rent, and I didn’t mind it, thinking of my frugal, minimalist lifestyle. But what I realize, as I sit here in my small room wishing I could quilt away for the day, is that if I’m going to live like that, why not be in a place where I could do so cheaply? Get more time out of my “starving.”

I’d always wanted to live in New York City, but the stress of money problems doesn’t seem to make sense. On the other hand, I can’t keep moving. I can’t keep getting up and leaving, never establishing myself, never taking roots. It’s a part of the reason I feel stressed all of the time. And, obviously, making money is more about building something—a good resume, a good reputation, a good foundation of customers and reliability. All of which is about just sticking to something.

You’ll see this problem with aspiring writers constantly—they write. They write a lot. But they keep starting over. Keep scraping the first couple of chapters to fix them, or changing their attention from one novel to the next, never finishing.

But I’ve also stuck things out longer than I should have. I tried to endure a bad situation, thinking I could solve it, but the ingredients were bad from the start.

I’m doing well, surprisingly enough. I’m going to Ireland in April, I like my job, I like my apartment and my roommate, I have some friends, some plans for Saint Patty’s day, and this has put me in a position to really consider what I want, instead of chasing some invisible dragon who very well may not exist.

I’ve come to an epiphany recently that perhaps my pursuit of happiness has been targeting my image rather than who I really am. I won’t criticize it, not as much as the mainstream tends to do, because everything is about moderation. But maybe instead of guilting myself for not meeting ridiculous standards, I need to focus on more self-honesty about what my perfect life—and perfect manuscript—would look like. I was inhibited, in the past, for not making a good enough impression, for not having any credibility, but now my credibility and enjoyment is being inhibited by worrying about appearances just a little too much.

I’m afraid of moving again. I’m afraid of starting the publishing process on a new novel. I’m afraid that I constantly scrap when I really should be revising. But luckily, I have six months to worry about it until my lease is up.

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