“Good books, like our true selves, aren’t instantly created or perfectly crafted. They are messy and frustrating and flawed, which are exactly the same things that make them real.” ~ Sarah Dessen
Trust Sarah to tell it in the truest way possible. I’ve gushed over her latest book WHAT HAPPENED TO GOODBYE before, marvelling at how she always manages to keep her characters original and real, even for ten books and counting. But what I didn’t know was that she had had to rip out the last 200 pages of her first draft for WHAT HAPPENED TO GOODBYE and re-write from there. Her solution to writer’s block is to go back to the last place where the writing was going well. Kind of like when you get lost on the highway and you go back to the last place you recognise. Because often, it’s at that point where you took a wrong turn – added or introduced the wrong character, removed the wrong character, made them do or say the ‘wrong’ thing – that things start to go downhill. So retracing your steps from the last place things were going right, and take it from there again, is how Sarah circumnavigates the messy journey of a first draft.
That got me thinking. Where is the last place in my life I felt like I had taken the wrong turn? And I found that I couldn’t think of one. Probably because my life is only just beginning, so to speak. But I realised I’m actually glad about how things have turned out.
Sure, you can say that’s because you don’t know what you’re missing out on. You think this is the best because you haven’t experienced better. I know that. It would be completely ignorant and naive of me to think that what I have now is the best I can possibly have, because, really, how do you define ‘best’ anyway?
I could just as easily feel that having a mother would be better. Or having a wider social network. Or travelling more. Those can maybe make my life better than what I have now, but only because I don’t know what my life would be like with them. What I do know is that I have my dad, my mind and body. And these are all I really need. These are what have taken me this far.
But “something to love, something to do, and something to look forward to”, as the quote goes, is what’s need for a happy, fulfilled life. What’s lacking these days is the last ingredient. Now, I’m not about to go into another bitching session about how I don’t know what I can do with my life and how I’ll probably be miserable in a job that doesn’t involve the type of writing I love. Today is just not the day for self-pity and self-indulgence. Today, I need to work on the final pages of my play, study for a quiz this Thursday, prepare for a presentation this Friday and get started on a group paper.
It’s strange. Just yesterday and the day before, I was feeling really down. Must have been low on serotonin, or something. But at least now I know, if I ever feel like my pages are getting messy and frustrating and lacking, I just need to go back to the last place I recognise, the last place everything was going well, and take it from there again.