As I am working on a second draft to a story I have been working on for the past 3 1/2 years now, I sent a text to a friend telling him how good I feel about it. The second time around, everything is going by quicker and smoother. Changes to certain scenes are becoming easier to make and easier to catch. Everything that conjures up in my brain seems to be working as one with my fingertips and I am extremely proud of that.
But as I told my friend about how well my process is the second time around, I found myself holding my breath and hoping that he didn’t reply with “What’s it about?” And when he didn’t ask that, I simply let go of the anxiety that was building up in me and continued writing. But I couldn’t stop thinking about why I freaked out about that simple question.
Before I started writing stories, I wrote poems. I have a composition notebook filled with poems I wrote when I was in middle school. Over the years, I had let a total of three people read through all of them, and each time anxiety welled up inside of me and I was eager to get it back, to keep them to myself and keep them in their dark little corner on my shelf. I refused to show them to anyone else because I felt like they were incomplete, like I had more to write and add to them before they were ready to be read by different eyes.
I realized that I was afraid of other people reading my stuff and judging it because it wasn’t finished.
“What is it about?”
How can I answer that without feeling like someone is going to reply with “Oh, that sounds lame” or “That’s so stupid”?
So I usually say “I’ll let you know when it’s done.” That’s a truthful answer.
I realized that during my writing process, I actually don’t know what I am writing about except that it is about X person and Y person. I figure out the story and the plot and every scene as I type it out.
So maybe that why it’s such a loaded question for me because when I am asked it, I haven’t gotten to the end of the story. I haven’t figured out where it’s going or where it will end up. I am asked that question while I am in the middle of discovering a life being created, when I have not yet finished.
So how can I tell someone what it is about? It’s unfair not only to the person I am explaining it to, but also to the story, to explain something that has not yet lived to it’s full potential. That has yet to blossom and grow and stand on sturdy legs.
I cannot tell someone what my stories are about because in a manner of words, everything could change. Nothing is set in stone and I have no right to explain something that can harden into one thing and melt into another after standing in the sun for far too long, untouched and unkempt.
So what’s it about?
I have yet to figure that out myself.