While visiting home for Sukkos this past week, I managed to have a bit of a scavenger hunt around my bedroom. Every time I visit my childhood home after a long duration in New York, I find myself unwrapping pieces of myself that have been long forgotten. My diaries are usually the first thing I pull out of the wood work, sometimes before I even think about unpacking. It gives me great comfort to know that the person that I was in elementary school, high school or even in Seminary are not the same person that I am now. It’s incredible to know that in only three years away from home, I have accomplished things that I did not know where possible.
One thing I came across while dissecting my room was something I had long forgotten about and, quite honestly, was shocked to mind. It was the early documentation and records that I kept in high school while brainstorming the original idea for Shattered Illusions. I had long deleted those documents from my computer, or stored them elsewhere and forgot about them completely. I remember that I printed those documents out and stuck them somewhere, but I didn’t realize how many of them there were. I was shocked at how thorough my early research was, how calculated and in control I was of a process that I knew absolutely nothing about.
The early jib jabs of my writing epidemic looked something like this:
This here is the experimental stage of this experiment that I am calling my first novel… If I ever sit down and actually WRITE this thing, it’ll be a miracle!!!
Inspirational things to remember to help me continue with this path in life:
* Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein when she was only 18 years old (besides the fact that in 18th century England, women were much more accomplished than say…an18 year old in the year 2009… just saying) *
*Write while the heat is in you. The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with. He cannot inflame the minds of his audience.
—Henry David Thoreau *
* I am a good writer. I really, really am. No matter what. *
Okay…now we’re brainstorming. We’re brainstorming and coming up with ideas. Coming up with ideas and writing them down and selling my soul to the devil! People are going to think I’m nuts. I’m looking forward to that day.
Okay, so the initial brainstorming may have been a bit more all over the place than I remembered, but it was documented none the less.
I used to speak the ideas out into the open and then rush to write them down. I spoke to myself as though there was another person (or more than one person) in the room. I began to make a connection between my world and the fictional world brewing inside my mind. Any pursuer of passion will tell you that first and foremost, you must have confidence in your ability to succeed. If you do not have confidence in yourself, you might as well throw in the towel. People can give you advice and help boost your ego, but at the end of the day, what you think counts the most.
Though I had the proper research and strength that it took to believe that I could actually put myself to the task, I was, in a sense, truly lost. Around me were people who believed that I could do it, possibly more than I believed it myself, but few who had advice to lend. Of course, those who opposed the idea were the ones whose voices I heard above the crowd. Suddenly, out of thin air came people who I had not heard from or seen in ages, all running towards me as though the world was about to end it order to BEG me not to put myself up to the task of writing a novel. They believed I was waisting my time, and at one point, I began to agree with them.
I’m just going to put it out there: Three months into writing Shattered Illusions, I was ready to trash it and never look back. I was embarrassed at my attempt to write a novel; I wanted to bury it in the ground and get as far away from it as possible.
I looked at the three chapters I had written and couldn’t help but burst out laughing at my stupidity. It as an adolescent attempt to make myself feel proud, and it was going awry in ways that I would have never imagined. Who would ever read such a shallow attempt? It read like a dinky paper back novel that one purchases for infantile amusement at an airport or supper market. It wasn’t the book I wanted to write, and it didn’t make me feel like the writer I knew I was.
The upside was that I learned not to let a spout of low self confidence get to me. I let the chapters sit for weeks without thinking about them before I thought about going back. I ignored my thoughts and refused to write down my ideas. I stopped taking myself seriously, and in a sense, that is where the best creative out burst came from.
The bad news was that, before the novel reached it’s midway mark, I had vowed to give up and scrap it almost a hundred times. The insults weren’t coming from outside, they were coming from within. I was my own worst enemy in the process. But, it was during the times of greatest struggle that I also promised myself never to give into the dark voice inside my head telling me that I would fail.
The turn around came from a moment of sheer boredom. Alone in my room on a Sunday night, with my homework neatly tucked away in my bag, my piano over heating from almost four hours of practice and my laptop dead from a marathon of essay writing, I sat back down before my ideas and began to think backwards. At the time, the story was told very straight forward, with the beginning at the beginning, and the end at the end. It read smoothly, but it was also boring. I was far from a boring person, and certainly my imagination could conjure up a better game plan than the one I was following. I decided that I had to go about things backwards.
Plugging my laptop into its life source, I quickly made my to the folder which contained the tidbits and loose ends of three chapters (the folder was very appropriately titled “The Novel Experiment”). Without thinking twice, I trashed all three documents, then proceeded to open a new word file and begin again. This time, however, I would begin from the middle and work my way out to the beginning and the end in all directions. It was the start of something backwards, but in my mind, it made absolute sense.
“…I don’t know where I am—somewhere between heaven and hell, a place of utter terror and endless confusion. This place, only brought to life in my most horrifying nightmares, is suddenly within my reach, the place that I had feared to find, in which all would be complete, in which I would die. The darkness of the situation has enveloped my being. Am I still living? Yes. Am I going to die at any given moment? Definitely. By whose hands? My own, or those of the shadows lurking in my midst? There is no sky, there is no earth, just a deep, black pit, never-ending in its power. The night has come to ransack my soul….”