It was one of those days. What kind of day? The kind of day where you concede that the novel on which you have already written some 900 pages needs to be scrapped. That was the sort of day it was.
Did I panic? I am happy to report I did not. The first reason I did not panic was that I know there is no such thing as wasted work. The last novel I finished, which clocked it at a slim 234 pages, was distilled from well over 1,000 pages. I may understand economy of language, but not of drafts. Yet none of those unused pages were wasted. Some taught me which way not to go, some gave me a sentence, some a paragraph or even a scene, and some showed me clues about the characters that I used later in some other fashion.
Second, I saw that I was writing more of an idea than a feeling. Within that idea bubbled feeling here and there, but the story as a whole was not driven by a single, felt, compulsion. In the end it was an idea that appeared appealing from a distance but it could not stay together because it lacked emotional glue.
So out it went. I was absolutely determined not to despair. To despair would be to succumb to the melodramatic fear that I would never write again. I could not have convinced a jury of twelve Me’s that I would never write again – there was simply too much overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
And so, in this way, it was a strangely happy day for me. How much worse could it really get than that? For a writer, not much I would say. Yet the decision came and went, and I remained psychically intact, and I still wanted to write.
I reject the view of life as a series of brutal challenges lined up from birth to death like a Darwinian obstacle course thinning the herd of man. But I have drawn great comfort from my fiercest challenges. I am not proud that I have emerged unbroken, I am not stronger for what hasn’t killed me—rather, I learn anew that that which I have tried to protect is as immune to damage as the river is unharmed to the arrow.