Forgive me if this post is a little incoherent, but I’m dealing with some pretty weird emotions at the moment. For those of you who have been following along with my NaNoWriMo journey, you’ll probably have been unavoidably informed that I did actually finish. I came out of NaNo with a win under my belt, and that’s a significant achievement that I don’t want to diminish. At the end of the day, I managed to write over fifty thousand words in a month, and more than that, I think they are pretty good words. So, yay me, right?
Well, sort of. In the interests of not sugar coating anything, I’m going to be honest and tell you that I don’t feel all that great. Part of that stems from my self-imposed perception that my finished product will be too short. The general consensus is that you should aim for eighty to ninety thousand words, and my finished draft will come in around half that. Generally speaking, you should aim to lose around 10% of your first draft during the editing phase, which would leave me around forty-five thousand words or so. This is short almost whichever way you slice it. Even The Great Gatsby comes in around fifty-two thousand, and it is a famously short novel.
What about a novella, then? Novellas are generally anywhere from say twenty to forty thousand, which leaves my projected length in that awkward length between novella and even the shortest of novels. It’s not a position I feel very comfortable being in, particularly when I do fully intend to pursue publishing. That’s not to say that I have a high opinion of my work, either. It’s more a case of the natural progression: I’ve finished a novel, I should edit, and then at least attempt to publish, otherwise what’s the point?
Which brings me to the next part of this complex emotional set I’m experiencing at present: the Inner Critic. You’ll notice I’ve capitalised the nomenclature, and it is no accident. The Inner Critic is a ubiquitous presence amongst anyone who pursues just about any endeavour, be it writing, art, music, sports, hell, even professional careers. The Inner Critic is that little voice that tells you ‘you aren’t good enough’, and ‘no one cares what you have to say’, and ‘you’re pretty shit, and you’ll never be any better than you are right now’. We know deep down that most of these statements are either wildly exaggerated, or outright false, but it’s very hard to ignore when the source is within you.
Adding to this, is the feeling that you don’t belong, otherwise known as Impostor Syndrome. Again, this is a self-perpetuating thing, which makes it all the harder to overcome. It’s very easy to block your detractors on social media or argue yourself into a feeling of rightness, but when your opponent is within yourself, it is so much more difficult to get them to shut the fuck up.
In all honesty, though, these two factors pale in comparison to the hardest challenge I have been, and still am facing. Coincidentally as it may have been, the end of NaNo happened to coincide with the ten year anniversary of my father’s death. It’s a shit time of year for me at the best of times, but this year it has been even worse, and I believe some of that may be due to writing those two little words: The End. It feels surreal that I have actually finished a novel, something I’ve been trying to achieve for several years now. But with that came the realisation that I couldn’t share that journey, or the sense of accomplishment with my dad. Here I am, having ticked off something that I thought nigh-on impossible, and all I want to do is ring him. I want to tell him all about Boredom Springs Eternal, tell him all of the little subtle things I’ve worked into it, discuss the plot, go over the theme, everything. But I can’t. I’m 10 years too late to do that.
So that’s where I am now. I’m stuck in this weird kind of limbo where I feel like I’ve really achieved something significant, right before my 30th birthday, too. But in the back of my head, I have these conflicting factors that aren’t letting me just enjoy what I’ve created. I’m sure they will piss off soon, but at the moment, they’re not leaving me alone, and it sucks. That’s it really, it sucks. I would have thought that after 10 years of not having my dad around, I’d be used to it. I’m not. It’ll never be okay that he wasn’t there to see me marry the love of my life, or to celebrate the birth of my two beautiful children, or to see my mildly successful blogging exploits, or to see me actually commit, and finish my first novel. It hurts that I know beyond any doubt that a lot of my fuel for writing comes directly from the pain of that day 10 years ago. It all hurts, that’s all.
But, with any luck, I’ll continue to manage that hurt. Because the alternative is worse. Because, ultimately, I feel like my voice can be important, is important, if only to a few people. And for that, I’m more grateful to my father than I am hurt by his absence.