There is something about book writing that makes a person (by which, of course, I mean me) horribly inwardly focused.
I have been a terrible friend this year. Passable, perhaps, to the friends I’ve been in the same city as at any particular point in time, but otherwise awful; disappeared entirely except for Facebook “likes” and the (very) occasional email exchange or Skype call.
I got to thinking about this the other day after reading this post on A Practical Wedding, about how people lose friends to a cocoon of coupled bliss after they got engaged/married/had kids. I could see it in myself – in my lousy emails and Skype calls – and wanted to shout (perhaps delusionally), “That is not what is happening, I swear! I am not ignoring you because I don’t love or want you anymore! I am ignoring you because there is this thing that has taken over my brain and my year, and I don’t have space in my head for anything else.” (Except dinner invitations. I – almost – always have space for those. And day-dreaming. I seem to have plenty of time for that, too.)
I wanted to write my book the same way that one of my friends did, at the tail end of 2011. Maybe not so quickly as she did, but in a way that built community rather isolated me, passing around chapters to friends for feedback and making them part of my journey.
But it turns out that doesn’t work for me. I’m more closely guarded about who I show my work to, especially in its unfinished state. I don’t want them to think that this is the best that I can do, unless they are enmeshed enough in the writing process themselves to know that everything is subpar before it is par, and everything is merely “good” before it is transcendent.
And honestly, I am paranoid. That they hate it. Which I assume of every person I speak to who doesn’t have enthusiasm oozing from their pores.
It is a strange thing – this writing which is at once better than anything I have written before, and simultaneously woefully deficient. And I am terrified that I am going to fuck it up. If not on the kind of grand scale that would be obvious to everyone, then in the subtle ways that would be obvious only to myself. In which the final product doesn’t live up to the vision. Which, apparently, it never does.
Because if I say that this process has made me horribly inwardly focused, the contradictory truth is that I have also not been inwardly focused enough. Which doesn’t mean ignoring people or never leaving the house, but which does mean turning one’s brain inside out, diving into the ideas until the insight and precision that is presently eluding me materialises. There is only one shot at this project, after all, and it is five years in the making.
I have not felt this much pressure since my final year of high school.