I did write a book this summer. Ninety thousand shiny new words on office paper printed out and bound into a binder. Another one for the dusty collection of first drafts that I won’t do anything about.
Maybe in ten, or twenty years, I’ll go over them and see if anything can be salvaged from them. Books become important; they’re like off-spring in a way. Their birth is always difficult, and their future perilous. But, in a way, each birthing of a book makes the next one easier. Or not. I’m not entirely sure.
A book needs several passes. The first draft is a race to keep up with the mental film. Then you put the book away for a month, or a year. It is necessary to get out of the psychological frame that it created. When you finish a book, you don’t want to. And at the same time, you’re so sick of it that you want to burn it.
I think writers are complicated folk. We are creatures of great internal divisions, balancing between love and loathing for our works. We spend three months or half a year or longer in a small closet with a bunch of characters that only exist in our heads. We get sick of them. But at the same time we love them, because we do spend all that time with them. We get to know them intimately.
Once a writer reaches ‘The End’, one has to put the book away to cool. To become a text; a body of sentences and words and not a mental film and an infatuation. When the book is ‘dead’, it’s time for the second draft. And, eventually, a third. This process is the kneading of an, often, formless mess into something lean and elegant and worthy.
Unfortunately, I never have the time to do this, nor the energy. I’m carried through a book by the wave of wanting to find out what’s next. The second and third draft needs a sharp mind, distance, and judgement. It’s draining. With university, I just don’t have that energy.
So, once more, I put a summer book into my shelf with the others. Maybe I should have a little ceremony to mourn its passing into this state of limbo. Limbo being the half-space between heaven and hell where the unborn and the pagans who never heard of the Christian god ended up in. While my atheist soul shudders at the comparison, sometimes it feels like it is the most accurate one.
Bye bye, book. You could have had a better life, if you’d had a better parent.