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Summer Postcards 2018

Summer Postcard: The First Draft

BANGALORE, India—I didn’t type “the end” when I finished. It sounds silly, but it feels like a jinx to me—like if I declare my draft finished, it’ll come to life in the middle of the night and cackle in my dreams. “You don’t get to decide when I’m done. It’s over when I say it is!”

Or something like that. I don’t know; I’m tired.

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I spent most of June working on the first draft of a novel. I’ve never quite managed the skill it takes to distill an idea into short fiction. So a full-length story is wonderful to work on now that I have the time, like a run in the springtime after a cold winter of hibernation. But there’s always an after that hits like summer heat, far too early.

It turns out that writing is easy. Editing is a nightmare. Most of my writing for The Crimson is simple that way. I can churn out a piece and hand it off to someone else, and it’s their job to correct my sentence structure, curb my runaway ideas, and cut out my extra commas. But now I’m doing that job myself, on something a hundred times longer than any piece of journalism I’ve written. As a matter of fact, going through manuscript pages and scribbling out suggestions is the only manageable thing about revision.

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Every change I consider comes with a surge of self-doubt, a voice in my head that I can’t shut off. Who would want to read this, let alone buy it? There’s so much to fix. This is a mess. How will I ever untangle plot threads and add colour to characters until it’s even remotely salvageable? The answer, on more days than not, feels like this: I can’t. On those days I can’t even eke out a word on other easier, shorter projects. I miss the structure of drafting, the comfort of thinking, “Just get that far and then you can start to worry.” I walk around so consumed by worry that I can’t even find joy in reading, because that nasty voice in my head says, “Don’t you wish you could write something like this? Because you can’t.”

It all sounds terribly dramatic. But the ocean of work any artist faces in order to turn a promise into a presentable piece feels insurmountable. More than anything, I wish someone from the future could tell me it all works out in the end when I look at this brick wall head on. But I suspect even a hypothetical best-selling, accomplished me wouldn’t be able to turn this feeling off.

All I can do is remind myself—rifling through pages and grimacing at my own notes—that this isn’t the end of the story. It’s over when I say it is.

Stuti R. Telidevara ’20, a Crimson Blog Chair, is an English concentrator in Cabot House.

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