My Journey · 12:01pm
Finally, the revised Chapter 12 of the Shades of Grey is up, and the journey it took to get there was quite exceptional.
As I've said before, I don't tend to be backwards in coming forward about my struggle with anxiety and depression. That struggle and my learning to write have unquestionably gone hand in hand since I first started, each stoking the other in turn. Now, both have picked up pace in unison and the challenges they present are no longer merely similar, but identical. The framework for those challenges, however, focused on my other main story: Bitter-Sweetie.
At the time, I'd given up on submitting to Equestria Daily, but I don't think that was a negative position in any way. There came a point where I was learning all sorts of stuff and quite happy to keep doing so; after all, there is little so mentally nourishing as being able to make demonstrable progress in something important to you. Yet, upon completion, it was suggested that it very much ought to be up on EqD, and I can't say as I was particularly off put by the notion! Since it never appeared there, you can easily surmise that it did not pass muster.
That in itself was fine, but it was the reason for the rejection, rather than the fact that it was rejected at all, that left a rather sore spot in my mind. I was perfectly happy to leave the story as is: the affirmation of a respectable editor was sufficient to feel like I was making real progress, but that mental splinter was the reason I did almost no writing at all for months. It's one thing to know something is amiss, but it's entirely another to have absolutely no idea what to do about it. Even the editing I was doing became extremely hard to focus on, until I realized one day that the very things I was having difficulty explaining were the same things I was having difficulty moving forward with for myself. But, I was explaining it, however slowly and clumsily it may have been.
And it clicked. And I wrote. And I thought. As important as the technical and stylistic aspects are, the bottom line is that we all cling to things that we need to be true in order to feel safe. Depending on our circumstances, that can be ignoring the foibles of a friend we can't do without, or it can be deeply held needs and convictions that permeate every aspect of your life. For me, that was needing to know how to do it right, because anything else was dangerous. It was my tiger in the grass, threatening to leap out and eat me no matter how objectively safe the task at hand may appear. It meant there was no wiggle room, no space to practice and experiment, and no freedom to explore without the threat of recrimination.
As Oscar Wilde said, "Life imitates art more than art imitates life." I have had the first meaningful dialogue with my mother in... well, probably my life, as it goes. I have gained new friends and new experience of mutual support and respect, as well as a deepening sense of comfort with the world immediately around me, be it a quip to a passing stranger in a shop or a pleasant exchange with a bus driver. I can see the tiger, and it weakens him. And so, I looked back over Bitter-Sweetie and saw that there certainly were ways in which I already knew I could improve on it, as opposed just thinking that it needed to be improved. So I did that, too, but things didn't end there.
I requested some feedback from The Descendant, whom I am sure you all know (if not, go check out his work!), with regard to the strength of the opening few paragraphs. That habitually seems to be my weakest area, and he made a very solid suggestion to make the opening lines more instantly gripping. Happy to change that too, I set about rewrite the opening, but found that I didn't really want it to be better. It felt plastic, it felt inauthentic; it felt not me. I can see how you could say it was better, but it taught me a whole hell of a lot about how I see fiction as an art form: passion versus product.
By product, I mean something engineered to gain the attention of the masses. Whether it's an abundance of CGI that does nothing to advance a story or a sharp opening paragraph geared towards grabbing a reader's attention, I detest it. Where I am supposed to feel like sitting up and paying attention, I tend to feel more like 'unhand me this instant, you cad!' There is no doubt that this is a reflection of me, not the writing, and yet since it is me, it forms a fundamental part of what I enjoy, both as reader and writer. It may be that it's something I need to shake as time goes on, but for right now, it is my reality. I even realized that the last two stories from T.D. hadn't really grabbed me in the way that his earlier stuff did for this exact reason. I don't feel like they're treating me as equal partners in the experience anymore.
What does this mean in the bigger picture? Well, it means that short of some seriously convincing arguments, I'm going to go with the softer, more genteel introduction for Bitter-Sweetie. The one that is more like two friends, author and reader, sitting down for a nice cup of tea and some whimsical embellishment, than a product finely crafted to manipulate the it's consumer into enjoying it. That's how I want to be treated as a reader, so it's damn well how I'm going to write. It also means that the chances of EqD accepting even the superior rewrite are slim, since it's making no particular attempt to be conventional.
And you know what? That's fine by me.
Be excellent to each other.
Inquisitor M, out.
P.S. Yes, from this point I will now be focusing significant attention on getting all of Shades of Grey back up.