Revisions, Love, and being In It For The Long Haul

Dear Blog,

It’s time to abandon my fun, scraggly, unfinished draft for final (!!!) revisions of The Last Days of Tian Di book 2 (currently Unmaking, but we’ll see if that title sticks), and I am feeling all dramatic about it. Can I be a drama queen, in my blog? Where better to be a drama queen? Who else would put up with it as patiently as you, blog?

If a first draft is like falling in love, as I suggested here, the revision process is like going through several traumatic divorces and remarriages with the same person while trying to settle down and build that perfect, happy union. Staying in love is so much harder than falling in love, and takes longer too.

Revisions are moving beyond the infatuation stage, and now you are staring at the little hairs he didn’t clean out of the sink after trimming his beard. Revisions are getting stuck halfway up the stairs, looking at him over the sofa you are trying to move into your new apartment, the sofa you can’t really afford, and thinking, oh god, is this a terrible mistake? Revisions are moving to New Jersey after years of gallivanting around the world in that reckless, spontaneous, first-drafty way, making Long Term Plans now and Serious Commitments, while every evening you secretly go and look at airfares on-line, trying to pretend that anything is still possible. Revisions are failing to grow a vegetable garden, kneeling in the dirt trying not to cry over the stunted, barely edible, and too-symbolic carrots and radishes that you’ve pulled up out of the earth.

You do it for love, you are looking for the plot, for the thread that will hold it all together, but it was so much easier before, when your only goal was something new and the future didn’t matter. You are trying to build something that will last, but you are thinking about how free you were when you didn’t owe your heart to this attempt.

Revisions are working through it, the days when you fantasize about Some Other Life, Not This One – an early morning train, days that are yours alone, a sleek black cat with iridescent green eyes watching you from the wall in the courtyard. You stay, every day, you stay anyway. You rewrite it, you rewrite it. The following summer, the garden will flourish. You’ll come back with tender ripe squash and zucchini, handfuls of basil, bags of crisp beans, because you’ve learned what to grow in this earth. In the early evening, the fireflies will rise up in semi-synchronized masses, bright blinking lights filling the lawn outside, and you’ll be glad you are here, for the first time not secretly plotting your escape. You can almost see it, the thing you’re trying to make.

The thing you end up with is never as perfect as the thing you imagined when you had really barely started, when he made you laugh so hard in that cave covered in batshit in Malaysia. It’s never as perfect as all those other lives you won’t live and the books you won’t write. The black cat eyes you resentfully in your dreams, like it is sneering at you, Really, is that all you can do? But that cat is just pissed off because it isn’t real. Dumb imaginary cat.

Whatever. I have had some practice at this now. I know all about being disappointed in myself. I could teach a master class on self-loathing, blog. But it is worth it, every time it is worth it, either for what you make, or for what you learn about how to make something. Revisions, like love, have never not been worth it.

So I’m suiting up. Once more into the breach, or something. Tian Di, book 2, you’re going to wish you’d never met me.

Melodramatically, imaginary-machete-wieldingly yours,

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Published on January 21, 2013 12:44 Tags: first-drafts, love, revisions, the-black-cat-isn-t-real
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