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half of finally.

Two years and roughly eight months ago, the basis for everything that got me out of bed in the morning ceased to exist.  There were still the obligations:  mortgage, cat food, laundry...Mom's health, once that shoe dropped....  And some things still gave pleasure; I adore my cats, and my friends are quite wonderful.  But for the most part, the world just went flat. 

And it stayed that way.  I held to the belief that someday, like a brain growing new neurons, I'd discover new reasons to get out of bed. Because that's what you do:  you find a reason or you stop, and I'm not the sort who stops.  But it seemed to take forever.  I bought groceries and went to work and paid the bills, trying to keep my infrastructure from crumbling while I waited for my time to be served. 

Part of what ceased to exist was the desire to write.  Writing has been there for me, off and on, since the teen years.  My writing has improved in fits and starts over the years and I suspected that, once I got past this nasty stretch of time, it would improve again.  But I couldn't rush it; I just had to wait for the force of writing to overwhelm the force of loss, and a weird sense of obligation to let the other person involved in this whole horrible drama reach a writing milestone or two first.  Because it wasn't a competition and I still cared about their future and I didn't mind waiting if I thought it might make some difference.

So the whole writing thing was tangled up in the whole letting-go thing.  It took two years and roughly seven months to let go enough to start writing again.  Novel #1 - wherein chapter 1 actually does not suck - is up to 11,000 words, 2500 of those from the last few days.  And I know most of what to write for the remainder of the story; it's theoretically possible I could get the first draft completed by the end of the year. 

Has my writing improved?  A little, I think.  There's more objective practicality in what I do now; this is more useful for the re-write than the first draft, but where I've applied it it's made a difference.  And any issues I might have had with criticism have been burned away:  one cannot receive honest criticism unless all restrictions are removed, and all reactions are handled offline.  I'd been working on that anyway, by way of critiques from eldest brother, but the implosion of the writer's group drove it home:  you can never be angry or irritated with the person who is kind enough to try and critique your work.  Some criticism won't be relevant or useful, but it's the obligation of the writer to deal with that and move on.  Anything less hobbles honest criticism.

The writer's group imploded because, out of love and respect, I gave the most thorough feedback I knew how to give.  I was intimately familiar with the creativity-derailing effects of receiving weird or inappropriate criticism, but it's something a person has to learn to deal with:  you can't always assume you will only receive the "right" kind of critique.  And we'd talked about this, and how ruinous it is to give anything less that a fully honest critique.  I thought people were ready, or at least ready to find out if they were ready.

My friend wasn't ready.  And I could never say the right words to make that critique okay so we could move on, because the only right words were the ones that made it never happen.  In her eyes, any explanation that didn't turn back the clock was inadequate, and "I did it out of love and respect" was incomprehensible.  And after that critique, every comment I made was suspect.

(For what it's worth, the critique was not negative.  I liked the story.  I spent days reading and re-reading for continuity, and she'd nailed it; the plot was airtight.  It was not a genre that I read much, so reaching that conclusion was a far more painstaking process than it would have been for others.  My feedback was lengthy and detailed, and asked questions that a regular reader of the genre did not need to ask.  But they were questions, not statements of derision or suggestions of failure.  My only goal was to raise questions; if my friend had already answered them in her mind, then that was fine, they were no longer needed and we could move on.  Or so I thought.)

It wasn't the writer's group that destroyed the friendship.  But it was the writer's group that pointed out the truth:  this friendship was based on an ideal I'd invented, an ability to know each others' minds enough to bridge the gap between alien philosophies.  A sort of telepathy, a true antidote to loneliness.  On the surface, we were both marching toward the things we wanted most in life, and were glad to have the company; we thought someday it would become a great thing, and we would do great things.  In reality, we could never bridge that gap between stubborn aggressiveness and stubborn passivity, between unwavering beliefs and a compulsive need to find what was good about every side of a story, between confusing violence with passion and confusing assistance with obsession.

The best thing I could do was end it and let my friend find her own way, without me standing around acting like something could still be salvaged.  But breaking the friendship, shutting off all the lights on the path to the things I wanted most, was the hardest thing I have ever done.  Harder than breaking up with my ex, far harder than clawing my way out of any of the other difficult and depressing situations that litter the average past.  I had really bought into the dream, and I had no idea what - if anything - would replace it.

So when I started writing again, when I started wanting to write again, it was a huge relief.

But writing is not the whole of it.  The friendship was never just about writing.  And there are aspects that I just can't seem to figure out how to share with anyone else yet - it's too complex. 

So, there's still work to do.  But at least while I'm rebuilding, I can write.
Friending welcome, but lurking is fine too.

Constructive criticism is also welcome - whatever it is, trust me, I've heard worse.



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