“Sometimes it’s a journey, most the time it’s just a bad joke...” - Michael Larsen
Internet, my flight to Infinitus took off with two notebooks, my trip out of Tennesee started with only one.
This actually started out with a pithy commentary on the prevalence of happy endings. It was intended for the HPFF audience. It was light, it was airy with the occasional hints of the personal that keep the hate mail to a minimum. It, like so many other posts, didn’t end up like that.
The therapists - and I pluralize them because there have been a fair few over the years (what can I say, I fire the good ones and the bad ones never last through a whole session) - they tell me that I have a tendency to lose track of my “feelings.” I generally counter by explaining that their premise is entirely erroneous - I don’t have feelings to begin with, I have thoughts which, when unchecked, manifest themselves into full blown neurosis. On the occasion that I do experience a feeling, I generally find it so disorienting that I flail around a bit (proverbially, I mean) until they go away. Nonetheless, they all seem to agree on the notion that I should be more aware of those things so, while there was a time - many many anti-anxiety prescriptions ago - wherein I could complete a task without waxing philosophical, it’s a bit of a distant memory and I try not to miss it much.
I explain this, not because I think anyone cares, but because I hope, by virtue of my having explained that fact, you, dear Internet, can be trusted to understand that, when I say - for me - writing is a journey, I do not say it with an over-inflated sense of literary value but, rather to say that the experience is always a journey for me. (One where the end, while mildly entertaining for the driver, tends to be less so for the people who are forced to watch the slides later.)
I’m always amazed at how much things change, for me, in the development of something. As I mentioned, the thing that had me thinking about this was happy endings.
Another thing I’ve been told is that when you write your characters into a place they can’t seem to get out of, it’s because you shouldn’t have taken them there in the first place. I’ve always taken issue with that. More often than not, I find it’s my inadequacies that are holding things up rather than the inadequacies of my characters, but nevertheless, I’ve been stuck on the same scene for approximately five months. Five months. Internet, I find this completely unfathomable. I have re-written it from scratch at least four dozen times...Chopped it to bits, scrapped it all and started again, cut back further, started a few scenes ahead and tried to write backwards and nothing. Nothing. This is the worst kind of torture I can imagine - I would rearrange my furniture monthly if I could. I would change jobs every six months and move once a year if it was practical. I don’t do well with stagnation, it makes me crazy, and yet, there I’ve been, hammering away at this once scene over and over and over again in the hopes that, eventually, I’ll put something down onto the paper that allows me to get past it - to get through this terrible terrible point.
Strangely enough, as I was sitting there tonight staring at as far as I’ve gotten, I realized that I’ve become one of those people everyone always hates because, as I copied out the last few paragraphs of typed text, I was overcome with the conviction that this story couldn’t possibly keep the happy ending I’d originally intended. (See, it always comes full circle, doesn’t it, Internet?)
I’m a total sucker for a happy ending. I admit it - I wanted Rory to end up with Logan and I was relieved to see CJ end up with Danny and Josh with Donna. The end to Dagny and Hank’s story always pissed me off, even though it was so much better with John. I can’t help it - the part of me that still believes there is good in the world likes to see things go well for people. Don’t worry, we’re working on medicating that out. To make a more damaging confession, though, I prefer the unhappy ones. It seems more honest that my favorite story ends with one character in Timbuktu and the other on their way to anywhere else in the world.
The thing about this piece that meant nothing to me is that, at some point, it started to mean something. I’m sure that Linda is right now staring at her computer screen rolling her eyes and that the first words she utters to me will be “Hon, It always meant something,” because she’s pushy like that. She may even feel compelled to remind me that, at the beginning of this, tapping into the vein that allows me to write the only kind of interpersonal relationship I’ve ever really understood or felt comfortable in also meant tapping into a lot of regrets, a lot of things I miss, and a lot of things that completely ruined my life. But I’ll at least argue that the thing didn’t take form until I scribbled a something on the cover of a composition notebook full of disconnected pieces and handed it to a friend at the close of a surprise encounter.
I’d lie and say I don’t know why I did it, but I do - and I bet you a dollar, you probably do to. Either way, the over-riding header since that day, the thing I’ve been repeating as I get stuck has been “To the man who taught me nothing but meant absolutely everything, this will never be any good, but it will always be honest.”
As I’ve struggled for honesty, not just with the writing but with myself as well, its impossible to deny that this story cannot have a happy ending. No, it’s not just because I’m to afraid to contemplate that any of them could have - I’ve spent a lot of dark hours contemplating that, I’m pretty clear on the answer. It’s that, no matter how good people can be together, it doesn’t make them good for one another. It’s that the honest ending, the honest ending can’t be that simple.
Of course, don’t ask me how I’ll get through the next thirty thousand words without the promise of a happy ending...and don’t ask me what will keep me writing them because the only thing I can really say is that I promised they would always be honest and now all of a sudden, I feel an immense sense of responsibility.
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