Perils Of The Project

I should be writing. Yes, there’s no way around it. But then I should be doing a lot of things and not doing them doesn’t cause me nearly as much grief as not-writing does. I guess somewhere, at some point, I decided I was a writer and that was the beginning of the end. It is interesting though; all those Leuning cartoons about the agony and shame of having a book inside you suddenly make sense. I would roll my eyes at them in my younger years. Surely having a book inside you was a perfectly wonderful thing; you would write it and have it published and fame and fortune would be yours. Perhaps I’m doing it wrong. (I haven’t done it before and have no frame of reference.) But it really feels more like being posessed than being inspired. I want it out of me by any means possible – though, ideally a means that leaves little emotional scar tissue – and at the moment something akin to an exorcism seems most appropriate. And, for better or worse (and any number of a myriad of other cliches, I suppose), I realise I am going to be haunted by this thing until it gets written. Even giving up isn’t really a long term option now. Think of the shame and agony and disgrace that would come out of that, especially after I’ve told you bunch [translation: my lovely, supportive readers] that I’ve been working on it.

The truth is I’ve come to resent my discipline, and even moreso, my genre. I don’t know why I thought doing something autobiographical would be easier than doing something completely fictional. No, that is silly, of course I know. I figured it would require less imagination. I wouldn’t be ‘making stuff up’ I’d simply be remembering things and committing them to the page in some witty, insightful and emotional-engaging way. (But no pressure!) Lately I’ve been suffering from discipline-envy. I watch artisans creating odd characters out of recycled plastic and think, that seems so much easier. Or I’ll think about doing a documentary. Of course, that would be easy. I just point the camera at other people and arrive at a discernable narrative in the editing stage. Let other people’s vulnerability be centre stage. That would be easier, surely?

The problem is two-fold. I have never attempted anything this big before. I don’t know if I can do it. I remember a past failed NaNoWriMo attempt and think ‘maybe you can’t do this. Maybe this isn’t for you.’ Though lately I’ve taken a lot of comfort in hearing other authors talk about the anxieties experienced with their books. I’m also trying to take myself a lot less seriously. I can assemble sentences and paragraphs even at the worst of times as long as I don’t make myself so neurotic that I’m fearful to bring pen to paper or fingers to keys. Sure some days things flow more eloquently than others, but I can do it no matter what. (Perhaps if I broke both arms that would be another thing entirely, but I could always dictate.) So yes the primary goal in the short term is basically to not go crazy. Or to go crazy but in a way that doesn’t immediately lend itself to self-loathing and self-doubt. (Or anything that would get me arrested or make the news.) Whimsy is a great tool in the ‘take yourself less seriously’ arsenal. A few days ago I found myself sitting in a cafe, tweeting something to the effect of, “Shut up! Coffee and cake-of-the-day is an important part of my creative process.”

The second part of the problem is the subject matter. It is painful. I’m starting to think I may have forgotten a lot of it out of personal emotional necessity. It hurts like a motherfucker. (And no, there is no more poetic way of expressing that sentiment.) Even after a year – a period of time that feels like an eternity – it still hurts. In earlier attempts to arrive at some sort of cartharis I wrote a song about it. I sent a demo of the song to a friend. A line into the song she goes, “Still this? You should be over it by now.” I didn’t think much of it at the time. But I came to realise that it was about much more than unrequited love, though unrequited love featured prominently in the foreground. The whole experience was pretty straight forward if taken out of context. But in context it meant so much more. It was a story about self-worth and love and identity and a whole slew of bizarre internalised beliefs about the world, the universe and existence itself. It was and is – dare I use an expression I absolutely loathed as a high school student – a ‘coming of age’ tale. (Yes, I’ve become one of those people.) And that is why it makes such compelling subject matter. That is why I want to explore it. I want to be able to send it to friends like that one and say, “This is what was happening – all of it, maybe it will make more sense to you now.”

Even the fact that this is a memoir, that this is about me, is problematic. I realise before I unleash this work upon the world I’m going to have to have some long overdue conversations with people in my life. Although I was hoping I could finish the book, have it printed and then post it to a couple of people as a substitute to having those conversations. Perhaps fleeing the country in the process with no forwarding address. (In case it wasn’t apparent I suck at confrontation.) But, no… In a lot of ways I haven’t been as present in my own life as I would’ve liked. I hope this project, this process, these conversations, are the start of something better, bigger and more honest. I have some genuine doubts about the truth’s ability to ‘set me free’ but I figure there may be fewer pretenses to hold up and that might free up some energy I can then pour into other, more creative, things.

So I guess my conclusion is that I have no option but to work through the static and write this book. I don’t really know how I’m going to do this but I have decided that I will do it. So that at least is an exciting development.

1 comment… add one
  • You are so brave. Memoir invites so much suffering. But it’s worth it and you’ll do it. Keep us posted.

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