If writing a novel were easy, everyone could do it. As someone who can’t back away from a challenge – and someone who often makes things more of a challenge than they need to be – I’m certainly not complaining about how hard it has been the past few months. Immiscible (still a working title) is quite possibly the hardest novel I’ve ever started writing. Ever.
I have a feeling I know what’s going through your head as you’re reading this. “What’s so hard about writing a book? You just make everything up.”
True – fiction is just that, the twisted imagination of a determined writer exploding onto a piece of paaper or a word processing program. But even fictional stories are often based on real events, just like my current project. Maybe that’s what makes it so trying. Or maybe what makes it so difficult is that it makes me face head-on what I’d rather bury in the past.
But that’s what therapy is. And that’s what writing is for me. Sort of. Some people talk about their issues – and I’m one of those people who needs to talk about a problem, out loud, even if talking doesn’t solve anything. Writing about it, though, works in a way talking with a friend can’t. It gives me a chance to tell my story, slowly, on my own time, as I’m ready to open up. To my computer. With no physical audience, no eyes on me, no one waiting for me to speak.
No pressure. Not really.
The story my novel tells is complex, as are its characters. It’s literally a perfect world filled with character flaws … er, flawed characters. Everyone has a secret. Everyone is connected. And somehow, some way, everyone has something to grieve over. Loss. The fear of loss. The anticipation of knowing something is ending. Not being able to love. Never BEING loved.
I struggle with grief. Some people have trouble sleeping, or eat too much pizza, or can’t get that stupid song out of their head in the middle of taking a test. I close my eyes and feel sad about things out of my control. I miss this friend or wish I could relive that moment. It never ends. And it is very difficult to face on a daily basis when all I want to do is put those things aside and live in the present – or, as I hunt for jobs (ew), the future.
There are, of course, specific events in my past I’m still working through. But as my story proves, grieving is a process – and everyone does it in their own way, at their own speed. There may be stages of grief, but there’s no time allotted for each one.
This book is special to me, possibly more so than the others I’ve both attempted and written in full (aside from my first – like a first love, nothing can replace that). I got the idea for a futuristic setting, a utopia but not exactly that – but that was all I really had. I had a few characters but no plot. No story – so it sort of just sat there for awhile. Actually, for almost two years. Then I encountered probably the most painful experience of my life – and out of that came, finally, a story, and a reason to write it.
This summer, as part of July Novel Writing Month, I made progress on it – 50,000 words’ worth. Then I, unintentionally, walked away from it. I just vey recently realized that I needed a break – more time to deal with the reality of what I’d been writing about before I wrote about it again. During JulNo, I wrote the “easy” parts of the book – the things I knew I could handle at the time. Then I got to a point where I knew I had to stop. I wasn’t ready. To finish the book, I have to dig deeper. I have to face the worst of my past. And I have to turn it into art. I have to turn something horrible into something beautiful.
What makes me more ready now than I was at the end of July? Time. That, and 212 hours of experience as a dietetic extern that made me realize my past does not define my future. For every individual who does not believe in me, there are dozens who do. And if getting past the pain means I have to take a deep breath and write about it, that’s what I’ll do. These are fictional characters in a fictional world. But they are dealing with the same deep-rooted hurt, regret and betrayal that I feel. That’s what makes it therapeutic. It’s me making sense of something so abstract and twisted I can’t even talk about it out loud to my best friends.
So this is the first passage I wrote since my novel (and blog-writing) hiatus. Geneva and Olia clean up broken glass, literally, and this monologue (which speaks it, I haven’t decided yet) emerges from the silence in the room:
“Grief isn’t something you can will away. You can’t abandon it to fend for itself while you continue on your way. Grief brings out the absolute worst in us. It uproots our deepest emotions and brings them to the surface. But in time it’s for the best. In time we are able to face those emotions we’d buried amidst our sorrow, to overcome them, to rise above them. Without grief, we would never know what it’s like to heal from the pain which we, at one point in our suffering, believed might destroy us.”
We are broken, but we are not ruined. What causes us pain only teaches us to be better, to do things differently the next time, to be brave, to face what we once thought we couldn’t.
I will get through this. And I’ll have the completed novel to prove it.
Love&hugs, always, Meg<3