So I've finished a good draft two of Less Than Perfect - my novel, for those of you not in the loop. And I'm happy with it. It was a victory -- a hard fought victory. It took me well longer than I had planned or expected. And yes, like I've said before, life got in the way, but still -- it was frustrating to not feel it come together faster.
Maybe it's crazy, but I swear to you it was my new MacBook Pro that turned the tide in my favor. Because within a week of owning it, I finished the second draft.
All thanks to my broken ankle.
Anyway. I know I have something good. I know people are going to love it. I know this. But when you write, really seriously write, you spend a good deal of time second-guessing and doubting yourself. You know for a fact that some of what you do is crap, garbage, tripe. It might actually be the majority of what you do.
And so it's always nice to get some affirmation -- that you know what the hell you're doing, you know what you're about. And tonight, in the midst of my ginormous household organization process, I got my affirmation. In this pile of junk, papers and magazines and whatnot, I found a printout of a very early draft of Less Than Perfect. The very first draft, in fact. This was back when it was still called "Untitled NaNoWriMo Project 2010" and only about 37 pages long. And I sat down to read it.
And let me tell you: It was stupid. It was horrible. It was horribly stupid. Reading it was almost as embarrassing as reading over the short stories I wrote in college and my early twenties... an exercise I engaged in just the other night. Excruciating. It was so bad I can't believe I kept going. I can't believe I found anything in there to hold on to.
But I did. I fell in love with my two main characters, and their families and friends, and I couldn't let them go. And somehow, it got better. And then even better. And then good.
And so reading this early draft -- and this so close on the heels of looking over a lot of my old writing -- affirmed for me that OH MY GOD, I do know what the fuck I'm doing after all when it comes to the craft of writing. All the years of working at it, figuring it out, have actually paid off -- I make good, even great, decisions about the narrative, what to leave in, what to cut, what to say, what to leave unsaid. I'm not perfect -- I don't think anyone who writes can really be objective about their own work and will always need some trusted advisors to look it over and offer real perspective. But in general, I know what the hell I'm doing.
It's a good feeling. I majored in Creative Writing in college. It was one of those majors where you could ace all your coursework as long as you put in the effort, even if the outcome of your effort was mediocre. My fiction writing teachers in college hated my work. They hated that it drifted into cliche more often than not; they hated that it always involved some sort of romantic relationship between a female and a male character; they hated that I used too many details instead of the spare language befitting short fiction. They seemed to like me as a person, save one professor my final semester, so I tried not to let it bother me. But it ingrained in me so much self doubt. I lacked so much confidence, and I didn't get any of it back until the workshops I took in my late twenties and into my early thirties. I got confidence in spades there, and looking over it now, the work I was doing then was amazing, in terms of skill and content. It's just that I never quite knew where it was going. But it was beautiful, and I remember loving the journey.
And then I allowed a person in my life take all that away from me in one ugly moment of betrayed trust, and it took 7 years -- 7 long and sort of lost and depressing years -- before I found it again, and reminded myself how much I love to write. I love to write so much I want to do it every single day, over and above almost everything else. Part of it is the journey. Part of it is that I can see the destination now.
And I love being back here. This is who I am. As much as my family probably hates how divided my attention for them is, I don't ever want to go back to being less than me, that sad lost person who wasn't doing what she was supposed to be doing. I'll figure out a balance at some point, I know I will.
And in the meantime, I have a killer draft of a really good novel.