Good morning! Good Friday! Good life!
It’s been a strange week for me. My main memories of it involve all the writing I did about the Declaration of Independence and Thomas Jefferson for my research paper, the large amount of Adventure Time I watched during my breaks (for some reason this is my new favorite show?? — make its all the butt jokes), and today, which was the most eventful day of my week and all we did was grocery shop…
I had a feeling yesterday evening that is a recurring fear of mine — that I’m somehow losing my grounding and missing things and not remembering my life as much as I’d like to. Honestly, I think it mainly happens when I let my days run together and become an autonomous routine. I guess I’m the kind of person who needs more than routine to feel alive.
Well, just a few hours ago, I remembered exactly what it was that makes life so lovely. For me, anyway. It’s appreciating the little moments of childlike abandon. Braiding flower chains, reading poetry, running barefoot, jumping in a trampoline, talking about silly things under a spring-blooming tree. It’s choosing to remember the things that went right with gratitude and let the things that went wrong fade and pass. It’s a cup of cinnamon dulce latte after an entire Lent of giving up coffee. Okay yeah. It’s not Easter yet and technically it’s still Lent, but whatever.
It really is the little things sometimes… I guess that’s what I’m trying to say.
Am I rambling?
Yes. Yes, I am.
Today’s post is not about gratitude, haha. It’s about my relationship with giving up/failure as an artist. I really hope you enjoy!!
When you’re a writer — nay, when you’re ANY kind of artist, there comes a point when you have to… give up.
Okay, okay. I don’t necessarily mean giving up your entire art! That would be so sad! I actually mean specific projects. Because, sometimes, things just don’t work out.
My first novel was an overdramatic Christian contemporary tale about a young boy, his friend-zoning redhead friend, and a series of very moody events that somehow led to said young boy’s salvation. I wrote it in a summer, all 20,000 words of it. I believed in this story so much. I worked so hard, but… eventually? I had to give it up.
I really didn’t want to give this story up. Even now, there’s a part of me deep down that wants to pick it back up and write it again, patting it on it’s silly head and telling it it will be alright. But believe me, though the ones who read it (I’m so sorry) might tell you it wasn’t that bad (kind, kind souls), it was so bad.
And to be perfectly honest, I’m okay with that! It was my first novel ever and first novels have every right in the world to be horrible. They are not always horrible, but they, by their very nature, are entitled to be. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something. Beginnings are always a little sketchy.
Since this first novel, my ideology about giving up has changed enormously.
Here’s the thing, pal. I have a lot of ideas. A lot. That’s probably the one compliment I’ll ever give myself. I am good at coming up with ideas. (Not to say I know what restaurant we should go to, haha. That’s the problem — I have too many ideas and it’s hard to decide. Eep!)
So I have all these ideas floating around in my head, right? Just yesterday I came up with a wildly exciting idea for a book and I spent a good half hour on a Pinterest board for it. I completely intend to write that story as soon as possible.
And… that’s the problem. I have too many ideas. A lot of them promising ideas, but I have no time to see them all through.
How do you know it’s time to give a story up? Or — let’s diversify this to include other art forms too, just because I like doing that — when do you know that song you’ve been working on is just not going to work? When is it time to throw out that canvas and start a new painting?
With my first novel, there came a shift in my attitude towards it. It was when I realized I was twisting the plot too much just to make unrealistic characters and flat personalities seem more interesting. And then the plot ended up being unrealistic and uninteresting. Could I have saw it through until the end? Sure I could’ve! And I admire anyone who has that kind of patience.
Maybe it was simply that I didn’t believe in the story enough. I was bored with the characters, bored with the plot, and I had a thousand other new ideas to attend to.
Let’s grab one of those new ideas I had and talk about it. My second novel, for example. It was a story about an eccentric old women and her magical library. It was one of the most fun stories I ever got to write, but after a first draft, I realized there were some huge flaws and I just didn’t know how to go about fixing it. And I gave it up.
Maybe I could have saw it through. Maybe there was more to be found in it. It’s just that my heart wasn’t into that story anymore. I had bigger and brighter ideas.
And so has been every novel since. I’ve had two since then. Another contemporary; 50,000 words, and a dystopian/sci-fi; barely 20,000, a very flawed first draft. All given up because I had bigger and brighter ideas.
The more I think about it the sadder it sounds!! …But here’s the thing: as I write and continue to grow as I writer, I realize I want more out of my stories. I want them to mean more, I want them to be more vivid and fascinating, I want to make people feel things and think things. As I improve as a writer and as an artist, my ideals improve and it’s those “failed” novels that are pushing me forward as a writer.
Every novel I write teaches me something new — what I like and what I don’t like. Sometimes that means I have to spend a year writing something I don’t like. And you know what? I am so hecking okay with that.
As of now, I’m working two stories. I believe in them both with all my heart. I’ve found niches where I feel that I can shine. I’ve found a writing style I feel I can expand upon and grow in. I’ve learned how fun it is to play with language and to not worry about the strict rules I’d always placed upon myself. I’ve learned how to write what I’d want to read rather than what I feel like others would like.
And maybe one day I’ll give these stories up too… and that will be okay. Why? Because I am learning so much.
In the end, isn’t that what art is for? Teaching us loads about ourselves?
I hope one day I can publish my work. That’s been one of my biggest dreams. For now though, I am so happy to be in a season of learning.
Note to anyone who noticed I forgot to publish last week:
- I love you.
- I’m sorry! I was sick and sad and busy, but now I am okay and I am keeping my posting promises, hehe.