Sunday, March 30, 2014

Triumph is a dish best served luke-warm and slightly overcooked...

The unthinkable has finally happened: I have finally finished the first round of rewrites on my book. This moment would feel more triumphant if I was even remotely close to being done with any of this. I'm super not. I guess when I was a kid and dreaming of being a writer I sort of thought I would come up with a story, and write it, and then the magical book fairy would visit in the night and wave some bullshit wand which bears a striking resemblance to a red felt-tip marker and then POOF! My story would be a shiny book with pages and a spiffy cover and an evocative-yet-enigmatic title and maybe some tasteful artwor. And it would be read instantly by millions and they would all give me money and I would get interviewed on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart because that's the only show I've ever had a sincere desire to be a part of, and then the rest of my life would be all unicorns and fire dragons and hobbits and enough chocolate mousse to drown in and I could die happy or else be immortal but without all the angst. Because of magic.

When you're a kid your dreams are all about the romance and the charm of having whatever you want and reaping the rewards of all your hard labor, just with all the hard labor glossed over. No one has dreams where they slog through years of university at an institution too expensive for the quality of classes you're taking in a major you don't really need because your dream doesn't technically require a BA in anything, only to make it into the workforce and suddenly realize despite all your 300 level courses and your shiny new diploma you are completely ill-suited to any real profession and your dream hasn't actually come true yet and, oh yeah, you still need to buy food and live somewhere. No one thinks about all the effort that goes into achieving your dream, your dream is just handed to you on a gilded platter, or drops into your lap like a less-rapey magic swan. You don't sit at a desk at a soul-sucking 9-to-5 job and daydream about the hours of tedious work writing a story, reforging that story into a coherent narrative, revising that coherent narrative into a good narrative, and then reformatting the whole thing into an acceptable template for a manuscript because oh hell you don't know how to do that, either.

And that's why creative writing classes are bullshit. They spend all their time with the touchy-feely part of the process, the 'honing your craft' and 'learning from other's stylistic choices' and 'trusting your voice' or whatever. But they never teach you the actual useful stuff, the stuff about how to write a proper novel, how to structure it, how to present it and to whom and how you contact these people in the first place. Or maybe they do teach you that stuff and I just never stuck with it long enough. Seemed like I really ought to have majored in Creative Writing, only I hate other creative writers and I was too enamored of the analytical bent of the standard English major program. Whatever.

 It just gets a little disheartening when you realize all the things you had hoped for as a kid aren't necessarily impossible, I'm not that big of a cynic, but they certainly aren't as easy as I had always hoped. Even knowing how difficult finishing a story is, given I've only recently succeeded at this endeavor, I had thought that would be the hard part. It turns out every part of this process is the hard part. I don't think there is an easy part. Anywhere. But the first hurdle has been jumped (second if you consider finishing the damn story to be the first hurdle) and I have emerged from the roiling chaos of the rough draft into an equally chaotic mess of the post-rewrite universe, the triumph feeling a bit cold and anti-climactic as I know I'll have to do this all over again, and who knows how many times in total before the damn thing is actually, truly done. Oh well. I'll take what I can get.