Abandoning my baby

P1030262 I’m not blogging so much these days.

I have dozens of reasons why: travel (to Atlanta and SalonLGBTQ), a hard-drive failure that left me weeks behind, the fact that blogging weekly for Today’s Parent and monthly for VillageQ have diluted my time and energy for blogging in the space.

And then there are the less tangible reasons, chief of which is inertia. Even though I know it’s not, has never been, I get to thinking of this site as some kind of online diary, a way to keep up. Jumping in after a couple of weeks, accounting for everything that’s gone on, feels overwhelming, and so I don’t do it.

I’d love to write just one tiny jewel of a post each day, like Casey, my SalonQ roommate (and maybe, someday, I’ll try that as a writing exercise) — but even then that would be just a different form of highly curated online life. Nothing — hello, Atlanta! — like meeting up with a bunch of bloggers in real life to realize just how little you know about the intimate details of each other’s day-to-day existence. I see things the boys are doing (like walking together, without us, to school together in the mornings, drinking their travel mugs of Rooibus tea and chitchatting away like little old men; we watch them from the side window and then the kitchen window as they make the first street crossing and I love the way they interact on this joint journey of theirs, not a big deal in the slightest to them, unless I’m wrong), and I want to document them in the space, write them all down. But I don’t.

And then there’s the novel. I haven’t wanted to write here about the novel.

I’d pledged to have a complete third draft by the end of October. And I haven’t made good on that pledge. I had 37 pages left to go, and I started, several weeks ago now, to reread the manuscript with the intent to complete it, and then I hit a wall. Then, all the problems that I had been willfully ignoring for so long reared their ugly heads and the idea of solving them now seems insurmountable.

Or, at the very least, not worth it.

This is the point where I expect you, my real or imaginary reader to jump in and say, “No! Of course it’s great! Of course it’s worth it to finish — it’s your baby! You’ve worked so hard!”

If that your impulse, thanks, but please don’t say that. (Unless you’re one of the two other people in the world besides me who’s read the whole thing through. Feel free to message me privately.)

Because I’m not so sure, right now. I like the premise, but I still have a major plot point to figure out for the whole thing to work. Of the four main characters, only one, as far as I can tell, has a real motivation. I’ve never been able to figure out, for example, what one of the two main protagonists actually does for a living, why she does what she does, why she’s, say, (still) married to the person she’s married to. I’m not quite sure that external events don’t force the whole thing along, rather than the characters’ motivations and growth. Parts of it, definitely, sing on the page, but many other parts of it feel stifled, clunky, forced.

It’s well written, for the most part — I can string together words. This, I know. But the ability, however strong, to string together words is not the same thing as the ability to write a successful, full-length novel. Or maybe it’s not the same thing as the ability to write THIS novel successfully.

Is this manuscript my baby? Not really — it’s been around since at least 1996, which means that it can drive and take a good amount of responsibility for its own self and the world. And while I owe it some debt of dignity, maybe that debt is already paid and it’s time to look at other things.

Or maybe it’s not my baby at all. Maybe it’s a long-term relationship that has exhausted its capacity. Maybe this manuscript and I would be better off parting ways amicably, wishing each other well on the next adventure and thinking of each other fondly as opposed to assuming that we’ve failed each other.

As melancholy as this all sounds, I don’t feel particularly melancholy about it. I definitely feel as though I need closure, and that’s a hard thing to do with a creative project that I could pick up at any time. So what I need is a decision for the time being. And what I’m leaning toward is putting the whole thing away for a year or two while I do some other stuff (like, oh, this one-woman show, or short stories, or more essays, which I've been missing sorely … or I could learn to play guitar), and then, if I feel like it, getting out some index cards and parsing out the main plot points from scratch, and rewriting it from the beginning.

Or not.

Or I could write a completely new novel.

Or no novel at all.

I really don’t know. But at least now I’ve cleared the air. And that feels good.

(The writers among you: have you been in this situation? Have you ever abandoned a long-term project because you knew it was no longer the right one? Have you ever returned to and completed an abandoned project? I’d love to hear what you have to say.)