Day 24: In Which I Contemplate the Conversations I Cannot Have With You
- 42,641 wds. long
OK, so not a 2K day. Today sort of got away from me. It was full of Wednesday stuff, and also distractions. So just about 1K, and that in the last hour and a half.
Again, this being a 4th Wednesday, one my Wednesday stuff things was going to my writing class. In addition to critiquing a couple more chapters from a classmate's novel, we got to talking about NaNoWriMo. Two of us in the class are participating, so everyone else wanted to know how we were doing.
Is that how we got on the subject of...? No, wait. Let me go out and come in again.
We got to talking about critiquing novels, and about people who can't quite bring themselves to finish their novels. About the tendency to go back to the beginning and edit rather than writing the last chapter of the first draft. Or, worse yet, to throw the whole thing out and start over.
Melanie put forth the idea of having one's sense of identity bound up in the process of writing a novel, such that the author can no longer imagine themselves not writing that novel. If it were ever finished, who would they be? Someone else, inspired by the idea of having your novel be your identity, suggested that there's sometimes a fear of letting the novel have its own identity. Fear of letting the novel stop being an extension of yourself and just be itself.
Which is where I volunteered the information that I have indeed been putting bits of my novel's first draft onto my blog, "you know, just to tell the world I showed up on the page today." The connecting thought was this: Finishing a work of fiction means the author can no longer enjoy the exclusive privilege of saying what that fiction is. Once you put it out there, you open it up to the act of communication, co-creation, redefinition maybe, that takes place between the reader and the text. The author, having had her say during the writing of the piece, is now cut out of that conversation. One might understandably have a fear of ending one's role in the creation of a novel, of turning it over to the readers act of creation which is totally out of the author's immediate control. And that fear is something I do in fact confront when I put up another snippet of Jet and Lia's story.
"And you're comfortable with this?"
"Not really, no," I said. "But that's kind of why I'm doing it."
"To encounter that discomfort?"
"...yeah. To push my boundaries, step outside my comfort zone. Something like that."
Which was, for all that I sounded like I knew what I was talking about, something I hadn't really thought about before. I mean, yes, I was absolutely aware of pushing myself beyond my comfort zone, but only in that I was presenting something imperfect to the world. What I'm challenging myself to do is to allow unpolished, imperfect me out into public. (Yes, I do a quick polish before I post. But it's not finished novel. It's still pretty rank rough draft.) That, and, yes, the whole showing up on the page thing. The whole "blog every day or the world will know you didn't write today" stick, in terms of carrot-and-stick motivation. (The carrot is going back and reading my blog entry, and knowing I wrote something new today, something that didn't exist when the sun rose this morning. "Put something silly in the world / That ain't been there before," as Shel Silverstein wrote. It's a good feeling, knowing I have.)
But I hadn't thought before about how everything I put up here immediately leaves my hands and goes out into the world and has conversations of its own, conversations in which I can have no further input, with anyone who claps eyeballs to this page.
Quite frankly, it's scary. I'm not entirely sure how I keep doing it.
He wore blue jeans, a plain white T-shirt, and, against the chill of a desert winter, a plaid flannel overshirt. His feet were bare. And he did indeed resemble an angel, at least one of those in a racially myopic children's picture book: tall and muscular, his skin the colorless color of the moon straddling the highway to the east, his hair one shade too blond to seem real. At any moment he would begin to glow, she thought, exuding a soft golden-pale light that, though invisible under the moon, would be detectable like napped velvet to the touch of her hand on his flesh. Her fingers would come away coated in fine dust as from a moth's wing.
When Lia said, "What are you doing here?" she could have slapped herself for the naked suspicion in her voice. But why shouldn't she be suspicious? Just because he'd startled her so excitingly, just because she inexplicably wanted to get him into a dark bedroom to see if she could read by his light, that was no reason to forget he had startled her. She folded her arms, a gesture intended more to remind herself to stay on her guard than to advertise her distrust to him.
"I might ask you the same." He stepped closer, but not so close as to engage Lia's instinct to back away. The choice appeared to be deliberate, but whether respectful or manipulative she couldn't say. His bare feet coming down onto the sand made the grains roll away in small avalanches. "It's late, and you're inconveniently far from town. If you shouted for help, I don't think anyone would hear you."
The distance between them kept the implied threat in his words from slamming into her at full force. Her alertness sharpened: flight or fight decision coming. Be ready. The sensation was more spine-tingling than spine-chilling. Lia took a step closer and shivered.