writing into the past
it's been a while since I've talked about my book manuscript. to be honest, it's been a while since I've made major progress on my book manuscript. after completing my first and very rough draft about a year ago, I took some time off for entertaining visitors in Taiwan and then traveling back to the US.
I managed to read through and mark my draft up for some edits over the summer. in the fall though, it seemed my time began to be sucked up by planning for and teaching my blogging class, and of course keeping up with all things on this blog as well.
I know that to many of you out there with full-time jobs it may seem like I have endless hours in a day to write, and therefore it is incomprehensible that I could not have finished this book yet. [or maybe that's just my inner self-critic talking.]
here's a little secret: writing a book is hard. digging in and finding the courage to write about the truth of your own life - baring all the gory details and hoping that strangers might maybe find them interesting - is absurdly difficult.
and then the realization that I probably need to completely rewrite my manuscript because the bulk of it is in present tense and it might make more sense in past tense? that was a gut-punch that stalled me on the floor clutching my ribs for several months.
eventually I started revising. but changing present tense into the past isn't as simple as adding -ed to every verb. some things just don't make sense when changing a present tense narrative to the past. things start to lose their immediacy, their intimacy. so I began to question if diving back into the past was really the right move. until I would come across a section or chapter that was originally written in past tense, and was changed to present to match, and then I was cursing myself while altering it back and pulling my hair out.
last week I reached the part of my manuscript where everything devolves into a mess of unfinished thoughts - complete with fragments of blog posts copy/pasted for dissection and expansion and random sentences I wrote and loved but don't know where to put. the last twenty pages barely represent what the last third of my book should be. I have been dreading this. and to be honest, I think that's why I've not been so diligent at working on my edits. because I know the end of the book is a mess and the level of revision and rewriting [and just plain writing] is daunting.
but rather than slug through the half-hearted edits I marked up last summer, I decided to restart.
I went back to the beginning of the manuscript to start it as it should be. which was actually revising the original start that I wrote and then moved. I'm going to frame the past as, well, the past. sort things into order and rewrite pages and pages and pages until I get back to the mess and then I can just fix it once.
the original title of this post was "when the past comes back to haunt you" but I just couldn't leave it like that. I recently had to unload about 1,000 photos from my phone [no joke] and going back through the past was almost like reliving it. my brain has always connected emotions with visuals. sorting back through shots from when we found out we were moving to Taiwan, our first months here, and particularly from when I started writing this damn book [as shown in this post] has been a journey I needed to take.
my life used to be a bit of a mess. in fact, it still is messy. but now the mess is of my own making, and I mean that in best way possible. seeing where I used to be - who I used to be - makes me proud of who I've become. delving into the past isn't always a comfortable experience, but sometimes it's necessary.
especially when you're trying to write a memoir.