I have no in between.
Other safe stuff HERE.
I have no in between.
Other safe stuff HERE.
And immediately I thought to myself, I should write a story about writing that story. It could be meta and funny and clever. I have so many amazing anecdotes about this process, e.g., the time I sat in a Casino for a bit to see what the fuss was about for Research Purposes, or the time I was working in a café like a Proper WriterTM and the waiter actually asked what I was doing and I got to say ‘writing a novel’, or the time used a sword.
So I sat down to write this meta and funny and clever story.
After several months, four abandoned drafts, many unintended tangents into grim trigger-warning topics, an existential crisis, giving up twice, extreme use of the backspace key, and many, many, many cups of coffee all I had to describe writing a novel was …
… a montage.
No, worse than a montage. A montage without a kick-arse soundtrack.
Actually, small request? Could go put on your favourite montage track on. Spotify, mp3 player, CD, tape deck, vinyl, acapella cover band taking requests, however you play your music. Doesn’t matter. Got it? Cool. Now that’s playing, would you mind looking at that last illustration again?
… any better?
It wouldn’t do. This may come as a shock, but I have standards for this site. Not every loose thought or whim ends up here. I try do an acceptable-if-not-amazing-enough-to-get-widely-known job (and since no one has shared my stuff enough to make me widely-known yet, I assume I’m hitting that sweet spot. This is definitely fine and deliberate and not at all a secret disappointment to me).
I thought a bit harder about what the writing process was actually like, and finally I came up with something else.
I thought, better. Much better. It introduces some conflict, reveals character, and does that satisfying thing where I am completely honest about what a terrible person I am but somehow this entertains people rather than driving them away probably because they wrongly assume I am being hyperbolic (and I have just done that thing again by pointing it out). I have finally, in Proper WriterTM terminology, advanced the story.
Excellent. What happens next?
Here’s the thing.
Writing a novel felt like carrying the one ring to Mordor across an endless plain. It felt like slipping into a Lovecraftian dimension to stare down the old gods. It felt like fighting to the death in an arena for the entertainment of the Capitol (… if all the other tributes were me as well and I was also everyone watching it on TV, anyway).
It took years. I made myself chip away at it, re-write whole drafts, do better each time. I used it as a distraction from my miscarriages, my growing depression, the world. Sometimes the thought of it sitting on my laptop waiting for me kept me hiding in bed in the morning, other times it got me up early.
But all that happened in my head. From the outside, it just looks like a montage. And I don’t have a meta and funny and clever story to tell about writing.
Nevertheless, I have set up a brand spanking new alternate site so I can chat about writing ad nauseum for, ideally, the rest of my life.
Maybe chuck it a follow if that sounds fun?
* Pretty much. Some final polish to go still, but I’ve done four-ish total re-write drafts as well as several editing rounds. It’s there. It exists. I feel I’ve earned use of the phrase ‘I wrote a novel’.
So my new blog is OVER HERE. It will be different from Silence Killed the Dinosaurs, and Silence Killed the Dinosaurs will absolutely continue as is, unaffected. You do not have to follow the new site, particularly if you have no interest in writing, fantasy novels, or me as a person and not a stick figure. But, if you do, head on over.
Other light-hearted, non-dramatic stories and comics collected HERE.
Once there was a girl who wanted to be a music teacher. She started playing the piano when she was eleven and the clarinet when she was thirteen. She loved playing and wanted to spend her life helping others like her have that opportunity too.
Third person, you understand. She isn’t me. Some other girl.
But actually that’s not the story. If you want to understand, it can’t start there. It has to start further back with a little girl who wanted to be a novelist. Or maybe an artist, she hadn’t quite decided.
The little girl loved reading books and drawing and making up her own stories, and she hated waking up early. She had heard that full-time writers and artists could wake up whenever they liked and never even had to change out of their pyjamas if they didn’t want to.
Sensible adults warned her that neither of these were easy careers. You couldn’t expect to make a living straight away, maybe ever, and you had to be really good.
She wanted to be really good.
She taught herself everything she could about writing from the internet, but most of what she learned was about bad writing. She read never-ending lists of mistakes and snide articles that dissected books she had loved to display their failing organs. She discovered plot holes and infodumps and two-dimensional characters and weak adverbs and purple prose and countless other things. There were so many ways to fail.
Maybe in another story she would fight on, learn things, face her demons and emerge successful and glorious.
But we’re here for the other girl, the one who wants to be a music teacher. And we haven’t quite found her yet.
You still need to know that the little girl didn’t have many friends. This little girl, the one who wanted to be a novelist or writer (but wasn’t good enough), was a social failure. She didn’t fit in and was being bullied.
And she was lonely.
So she joined her school concert band and clarinet ensemble. She had some friends in these groups and made some more, and she found she could cleverly schedule her instrumental lessons over the parts of the school day that she most wanted to escape.
And there she is, the other girl. We’re back at the beginning. I’m sorry about the detour, but it was important, and we can begin properly now.
Once there was a girl who wanted to be a music teacher. She played the piano and clarinet. She loved escaping to play them and wanted to spend her life helping others like her have that opportunity too.
The girl went to university to get the qualifications she would need.
She thought it would be like music at school, only better because music would be all the lessons instead of just some of them.
None of this happened to me of course. I didn’t have a bad experience studying music at university. I did not fall short again and again. I was not humiliated.
But maybe—third person—she was. That other girl.
Maybe she was told that it was a character test, everything was a character test, and that she was failing.
She remembered how after-school cartoons had tried to teach her that failure wasn’t a bad thing, real failure was not trying and supreme failure was giving up.
But it felt bad. And she was trying really hard and it wasn’t helping.
She didn’t really understand. But she thought she did, and what she understood was that she couldn’t give up. Not ever, no matter how much she wanted to.
So she tried to remember that she was a girl who wanted to be a music teacher and kept going.
She endured a whole year of not giving up. And then she attended her last lesson before the summer holidays and walked out and went home. That other girl.
And as she walked out she said good bye and happy holidays and see you next year.
Because she hadn’t quit. Everyone believed she would be back. She couldn’t even give up properly.
It didn’t start with a girl who wanted to be a music teacher, but where does it end and which girl does it end with?
Maybe it ended years ago, when the girl who wanted to be a music teacher got home at the end of the year wanting to be anything but a music teacher. She finally gave up, the most terrible and absolute way to fail. She changed degree (softly, safely via email), knowing that it was all character test, but not yet understanding that there is no grade.
It was not a decision she ever regretted, not even for a moment.
Maybe it ends now, with the little girl who wanted to be a novelist (or an artist) as a woman working as a writer and an illustrator. Perhaps, in the end, she did fight on, face her demons and emerge glorious.
But is it only okay that she failed then if she succeeds now? And success is a slippery term. She loves what she is doing and believes she is finally in the right place. But she isn’t making a living. And she has a chronic illness and cannot have another job to protect herself. And she is still frightened that she is not good enough, cannot be good enough.
(You have to be really good.)
Or maybe it ends someday yet to come, with a woman who sees her clarinet case and feels something close to curiosity. She will pull it out, wipe off the dust and put the instrument together. She will rediscover how the pieces fit, and then she will play again and enjoy it.
But that’s not quite the right ending either. And maybe nothing will be. I think that this isn’t the kind of story that ends.
Because she’s still walking out. That girl, that other girl. Somewhere, always.
She was caught like a mosquito in amber as she pushed open the door, with all the failure crushing down on her and no resolution. So she is still smiling—a tired, fracturing smile—and still saying nice things to the people who made her feel worthless. And she is still telling them she’ll be back next year. And she is always promising she can do better.
(She didn’t mean to lie, but she did and it is caught too).
The moment is suspended, and then that other girl is dropped back into my life, sending ripples in all directions.
I am always heading away from her failure. I am always heading toward he failure. I am always her, failing.
But I understand the cartoons a little better now. Failure isn’t a bad thing.
(Even when it feels bad.)