Write Like You\'re Running Out of Time

Last week my book went out into the world. And I’m really proud. I’m also really touched at people telling me how it resonated- whether their own thoughts on the TV show or on Queerness or whatever. That’s what I wanted to say and that’s what is making me so happy. 

Of course, I had both a bout of existential dread on Friday of ‘why have you poured so much into this when nobody will care and nothing will ever come of it’ but that’s life, that’s a battering from rejection and writing for so long. 

But while I still have a certain amount of existential dread that either someone from the show will see it and hate it. Or that fans with pitchforks will come for me because of it, actually I know I said what I needed to. That book is truly in my voice, and from my (nerd) heart. And I’m proud. It also was part of a huge shift in how I think about my writing and what I plan to do next. 

This weekend I also finished a piece of writing I’ve been working on for months. I’ve been writing it for about five months, and it’s over 200,000 words…and yes it’s fanfiction. And I’m actually just as proud of that. 

Here are some guys with the book in a reference a select few will get, but also it’s pretty darn cute. 

Writing that story started out just because it was in my head, and it felt like a good writing exercise to get it out. It was about writing a thing that needed to be written, even if it only exists in a bubble of its own making. (Midway through writing this blog I realised my Fic writing needs its own blog, but I also needed a minute with that so next week…I\’ll get there sooner or later).  

In the meantime I wrote about Fanfiction back last year

At the same time, I’ve been continuing my novel writing course with Faber Academy. That’s linked to the above too (maybe in more ways than one), mostly in that writing fanfiction last year made me rediscover a love of writing stories. And in particular writing prose. The little confidence boost writing fic gave me, allowed me to take a leap and say ‘well let’s experiment and see if this is a thing I can do….’ 

It’s not been easy, partly because the emphasis on reading in a ‘literary’ way is what made my PhD so miserable…or the emphasis on formatting also giving me PhD flashbacks. But also because last week a course participant said my writing was  ‘trying too hard to show they were gay’ (which basically amounted to ‘counting the kisses’) And a certain level of imposter syndrome as to ‘what am I doing’. But I’m deeply in love with the story I’m telling in that wonderful way where the characters live in my head, and talk to me, and tell me their stories…and keep me company. Much like writing fanfiction actually. And you know what? I haven’t had that in years. Theatre writing has felt too much like ‘what can I write that someone will want’ not ‘what can I write that is for me.’ because really shouldn’t whatever we write come from somewhere authentic, not from trying to fit into some box. Not from trying to be the thing people want you do be? And even if nobody ever reads this novel I’m drafting, I’ll have spent time in a world, with some characters I have already fallen in love with. And I’ve missed that feeling. 

I’ll let you into a dirty secret: I love writing. 

According to the memes we shouldn’t, it should be hard, and painful and you should want to do everything but write. I’ve never understood those memes. I would rather write than do anything else. Writing itself, putting words on a page has never been hard. Editing? That’s hard, that’s work, that’s painful. But writing? If I could live in those worlds, do that forever I would.

And not just in fiction, there is so much joy for me in writing about something I love. It’s why I started blogging, it’s why I (used) to enjoy theatre reviewing. It’s why I did a PhD I just have a lot of words to say about things I love- and indeed things I hate. I also have the kind of brain that finds weird connections in things, which is why in short I ended up writing a book on Schitt’s Creek when I should have been writing about Angels in America. I have this ridiculous, unrelenting, slightly irritating need to share information about things I’m passionate about with people. 

I re-watched Hamilton at the weekend (which reminds me I really should write some proper thoughts on that sometime) and the thing that always resonates with me about A.Ham is ‘Why do you write like you’re running out of time’…because I would be the little shit who wrote the other 51 Federalist papers. I’m the idiot who would leave thousands of pages of writing (mostly indecipherable). 

What I’m also a believer in, to make a parallel with Hamilton as a musical, is making things accessible and appealing, not shutting them off from people. I’m not about to write a game-changing Broadway musical any time soon, but I can in small ways write for people who care to read what I write. I might have guilt about failing as an academic, but actually, do I care if three ‘chosen ones’ of academic reviewers liked my book on a TV show or musical and deemed it worthy? Or do I care that people read what I wrote and said ‘yes that captured something I felt’ and ‘I didn’t know that’. 

It’s always got to be the latter. 

That’s something I’ve finally learned this year: The right way is your way. 

In the realm of being honest, and transparent too, yes I’m ‘winning’ in some respects, making progress if you will. But also as someone who talks about rejections a lot, to also be transparent about the reality. Someone commented on Instagram that it’s ‘about time’ things started going well. And the honest answer is they are and they aren’t. Yes, creatively or however you want to put it there are good things. But I’m still very unemployed thanks to the pandemic. I’ve had to finally admit defeat in terms of theatre and arts jobs, I’m scraping by on bits of teaching and other odds and ends of freelance work. And the honest answer is, I don’t know what’s next and I’m scared. 

So I’ve taken a pause. Just for the summer, to concentrate on doing properly what I’ve worked hard for, and then take the next steps. Because somehow, this side of writing has managed to click into place, so I’m taking the bad, and turning it into good, and putting the energy it deserves into these projects, for a little bit. 

In the realm of honesty too, none of this was easy. I’ve not tallied up the rejections this year yet, but it’s a lot. I had one ‘maybe’ that went on for six months and it made me ill, actually. The level of anxiety, sleepless nights and tears. Because when everything else feels like it’s falling apart you cling to the shreds of hope. But a Valuable lesson learned: if it’s that hard, walk away. It shouldn’t be such a battle. That’s a thing I learned in theatre and in book-writing the hard way. If it’s an endless battle it’s probably not worth it. And there’s no ‘right way’ to do it. 

Despite outwards success I still feel like a ‘failure’ often- I know people judge me for my failure to find a ‘proper’ job again, to not have attained certain things there. To which I say don’t worry I judge me too, but also maybe that’s just not the path I’m on. 

As a wise man once said ‘The choice may have been mistaken the choosing was not’

And in choosing, I think I managed a few wins; 

Last week my little pink book went out into the world. It’s probably the thing I’m most proud of writing (so far). It’s also the most ‘me’ thing I’ve written. When friends said they can hear me in it, that was the win. 

Yesterday I posted the final chapter to a story that was meant just for me. But really seemed to resonate with people. I got so many messages about that story, and my heart is warmed. That story also felt like me. 

I’m working on my novel for my writing course, and that story feels like me too. 

I’m writing about Rent the thing that changed me and who I am, in a way that will give me my voice. And let me tell that story the way I want to. 

And there’s likely a continuation of that little pink book happening too. 

All these things will bring me joy to create. 

‘Anything you do let it come from you then it will be true’

You can buy my book from 404 Ink here. 

Published by Emily Garside

Academic, journalist and playwright. My PhD was on theatrical responses to the AIDS epidemic, and I continue to write on Queer theatrical history. Professional nerd of all things theatre.

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