Since arriving at Hub Bub I’ve been trying to think of new ways to reapproach my novel. I feel a bit hesitant, the way one might feel about getting back into a relationship that was questionable in the first place. It’s not that I don’t think me and novel can work this out—in fact I desperately need to believe we can—but I’m interested in seeing if there’s a healthier way to go about all of this business.
I’ve been flirting with Draft Three. Giving it sly little looks from across the room in which I try to convey “I think you’re naughty and I like it” in hopes that Draft Three will respond in a favorable way. So far it just lies there in a heap.
Last year, around this time, I approached Draft Two. Draft One had been so freeing and wild that me and Draft Two ran to one another with a fierce determination. “We’re going to do this!” we screamed and, in the words of cartoon George Orwell “This book is going to rule so hard!”
Before starting Draft two I cleaned my house (probably around July 7, 2009) and did not clean it again until I moved out June 11, 2010. I lived in my filth. I stopped buying food. I had some nice friends who would leave me glasses of orange juice outside my door. I became very good at calling people up at strategic times just to see what they were up to and oh, you’re cooking dinner? That sounds great. Well no, I had no plans, I’ll be right over. (Thanks 1919 Market Street!)
By May, Draft Two and I were sort of weary from such hard living. I started to get a little confused about where draft two ended and I began. And, I have to admit, I got a bit of a wandering eye. There were these other stories, looking all sweet and available, that I wanted to pursue. Ones that would yield to me over the course of a few weeks, or a month as opposed to this crazy-appeared-to-be-life-long-marriage with novel.
I’m not the first writer to personify my work. David Foster Wallace particularly appreciated Don Dellilo’s description of the novel being a hideously deformed infant with a flipper who follows the writer around demanding love and attention. I’m also not the first to complain about the length of time the novel requires.
This week, on Slate, Susanna Daniel discussed how her novel took a decade to go from first sentence to hard cover publication. She refers to the period of time as active non-accomplishment:
There is surely a word—in German, most likely—that means the state of active non-accomplishment. Not just the failure to reach a specific goal, but ongoing, daily failure with no end in sight. Stunted ambition. Disappointed potential. Frustrated and sad and lonely and hopeless and sick to death of one’s self.
Whatever it’s called, this is what leads people to abandon their goals—people do it every day. And I understand that decision, because I lived in this state of active non-accomplishment for many years.
Her story is an encouraging one. Eventually this state of active non accomplishment ends and the novel is born. I’m hoping that I learned a little something from Draft Two about how to be in a relationship with my novel, which will include cleanliness and high functioning behavior. I also want to spark some of that fun and joy that came from that first draft. In the mean time, I’m going to quit singing love songs to my novel and dive back in to work.