Thursday, March 4, 2010

First and Foremost.

There's a story I like to tell.

When I was a kid, following well into my teenage years, I used to warn people that I was odd. Before the anxiety was diagnosed, before biochemistry forced me to acknowledge my asexual status and circumstances turned me into an aromantic, and years before I had discovered alternative religions, back when, as far as we knew, the kids only made fun of me because of the Cerebral Palsy, and all that entailed, I used to say to my mother, quite frequently, "I think something is wrong in my head. I don't think it works like other people's heads work." My poor mother used to pat me on the head, and reassure me that at my age, everybody feels like an outsider.

One day, when I was seventeen or so, a family friend came to dinner. She had two sons, both a few years younger than me, and closer to my brother's ages. But the younger one and I, we sat up at the dining room table that night, as our respective mothers chitchatted about... whatever it is they chitchat about, and talked shop. It was slow and stilted in places, he was still younger than me, young enough to believe that he could be published within the year, and it would be an instant bestseller, and bonus, people would be thrilled because at the time, he was something like fourteen. I had to reign him in quite a bit, I remember. But it was nice, to get to talk on the same wavelength with someone, to be on equal footing, crossing terrain I knew well.

Our mothers watched the whole thing, eventually abandoning their talk to listen to us, until my mother turned to his, and said in an interested tone, "I never knew he wanted to be a writer." His mother smiled in the indulgent way parents of artists often do, one part proud, one part uncertain, one part jocular.
 "Since he was six." She said. My mother nodded.
"Her too." She said, and then, suddenly, conspiritorally, she turned towards the mother. "They're weird, aren't they? I used to think it was just her, that she would grow out of it in time, but then she got to high school, and there's like, there's a whole group of these weird kids. They're a whole different kind of person." And his mother laughed and agreed. I remember staring at my mother, until she shifted guiltily and said, "Sorry." and I just smiled, then, and told her honestly.
"I'm just glad you finally said it."

Whenever people ask me if I feel different, I always say yes. But then I have to add an asterisk. I don't feel different, being asexual, or being physically and mentally disabled, or having suffered anxiety or insomnia, or studying pagan theology. I feel different because I'm a writer. I feel different because I feel differently. Because other things are immediately noticeable to others, they make easy assumptions. I could write a whole post on these assumptions, and their wrongness. But I won't. Because this blog is not about that.* What this blog is about is that when I was fourteen, I wrote a novel.

When I was fourteen, I wrote a novel about a little girl in a big, scary grown-up world. A world where she had to watch her strong, independent mother turn weak and scared. A world of grownups who were afraid of things they didn't understand, and kids who were just plain afraid, like kids get. And I created a little girl who could fight back, and fight hard. Five pages every morning, getting up early to squeeze in computer time before my brothers woke, and hearing my mother hush them when they tried to pout about how unfair it was, that extra half hour it took me, "Be quiet, your sister's working. This is important."  And I wrote it, and I finished it, and then... then it ended.

But it always began again, and again, and again. And in between each incarnation, there were new things to write, new stories and characters, and also, real life. I got into a top film college, then had to leave it because the disability services were not prepared for me. I watched my best friend lose her heart and soul to a monster disguised as a man. I lost family members to illness and disaster, and friends to distance and growth. And I wrote. And I wrote. And then I wrote more. And always, in the background, there was Hannah. Waiting for me to finish. For years I toyed with the idea of rewriting, reworking, and getting Hannah published, but I kept putting it off. And recently, I realized that the reason I was putting it off, was because I didn't want to wait. I didn't want to trust someone else to get the job done. I wanted to self-publish. And for a long time, I wasn't ready for that. I think, I hope, I am now.

These are the things you need to know about the project:

1. I am writing five pages a day, and only five pages a day, as a throwback to my youthfully naive goals. The goal is to self-publish the first Hannah book, have it ready for distribution, by August 31st. This is as close as I can remember the original version first draft being finished. Which means nothing to anyone but me, but it's my project, so myeh. Currently, page count stands at ZERO. (pray for me.) 

2. There are actually three novels involved in Project Hannah. I did, actually, complete the first version of the first one, but it never came out dark enough, at fourteen, to consider it done. I recently completed a deliciously dark screenplay titled Everywhere, which nearly cost me what's left of my lingering sanity. So yeah, I think I'm ready now. Of the other two, one was half completed, and the other was outlined. Since the original Hannah had almost no planning, beyond the odd brainstorming session, I am officially working without a net.

3. When I refer to Hannah, unless otherwise stating, I am referring to the character. No, I am not insane. Yes, in theory, I understand she is not a real person. But after 10+ years, I feel that we have a kind of relationship. So much so that a part of me wonders if by finishing this project, I will also be moving myself towards my own happy-or-otherwise ending. (Oh crap, I just gave away the ending. She doesn't die. SPOILER ALERT!) Hannah is one part my daughter, in that she is a child, and even though in later incarnations she grows, she will always be eight years old to me. But in another part, we are  members of the same team. The other reason I have for self-publishing is that I feel that we began this journey together, and that's the only way I can conceive of finishing it. We do have conversations. Real ones, even. Just today, after knowing her for eleven years as I do, I learned she is a vegetarian. Isn't that amazing when that happens?**

4. I am epically disorganized, but not epically lazy. When I say this thing has taken me omgelevenyearshowamIsoold? That's not to say that I worked on it nonstop. I'm not a great writer, but I don't absolutely suck. As mentioned, my attention shifted to screenplays, there was college to try (and epically fail) and other bunnies to chase around my head. I am not so much banging my head against a brick wall. More getting reacquainted with an old friend. I just feel it's time to finish what I started.

5. Adding to 'not epically lazy', I currently have a part-time job, two furbabies to raise, travel semi-frequently, and am fiddling with other projects. Thinking of tackling script frenzy this year too. I also have a huge family that I love who sometimes make me want to tear my hair out, and some amazing friends, and some friends who bring the drama. If, on occasion, some of this spills onto this blog, you will have to forgive. I have never had a blog with a purpose before, and am more used to just shouting into the internet.

6. I am a writer inside, yes, but spelling and grammar? Oh boy. Mostly, I will be working with the aforementioned amazing friends to fix any errors. I will also be obsessively nitpicking on my own. But I will miss things. Sorry, and please feel free to correct me.

So. That's it. Me and my girl, and the next six months. Can I do in six months what I haven't managed in eleven years? Better, can I be happy with it?


Um. Maybe?
No. Yes. Yes, for sure. I can.
I think. Well, just watch. We'll see.***

*When I say 'this is not about that' I am simplifying. I am a person with a physical and mental disability. That fact and all that it entails worms its way into my life, and into my writing, both personal and professional. IRL, ie, NOT on the internet, I am often told I think a lot about my disability. I don't. But it's there, it occupies a space inside of my being, and so sometimes, there is a trickle-down effect and it turns up in different places where able-bodied people may feel it shouldn't, isn't warranted, or doesn't usually. If talk of HAVING a disability makes you feel uncomfortable, you are reading the wrong blog. Feel free to hit the back button, no one will judge you.

**Originally, Hannah was an experiment. My cousin and I created the physical character so that we could recreate the famous experiment where scholars sat around a table, and lent their energy to the room, focusing on their imaginary person. Supposedly, this created an actual poltergeist, a metaphysical being of pure energy, who could move things around and communicate. When we did it, the experiment never worked, and I kept her for myself. I don't see Hannah as a poltergeist, as in, I KNOW she does not occupy physical space of any kind, but after eleven years, she too is a part of my metaphysical and spiritual makeup, and takes up her own energy, inside me. That's why I feel like if I finish the project, I will move on to bigger and better things.

***When I was a kid, "We'll see" always meant, "convince me, because I want to say no, but I don't have a good enough reason yet."

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