When you don’t have a map, write one

The further I try to go on in this project, the less I know where it’s going, it seems.

I’ve come to the realization that once I start writing, I don’t like to use “writing” time to think ahead, to plot out where my story is going. I feel like I ought to be writing, instead of just thinking about writing (it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, since it’s still productive, but, I never said my mind worked clearly).

But this week, in what little time I’ve had, I’ve made myself do some thinking, planning out where my story is going. Because it’s hard to write otherwise, and I’m trying not to fall into the slump where it’s hard to write because I don’t know what to write, but I don’t want to take the time to figure out where I’m going.

The driving force behind this project, the last few weeks, has been my opportunity to wrestle with hopes and dreams and feeling like giving up. Sometimes writing things out, even things you know, helps them sink in in a new way. And sometimes, you have to allow yourself to sink a little bit into the darkness in order to better appreciate the light, to remind you there are things out there worth waiting for.

Everything else about this story has been up in the air. But I’ve got a little bit more clarity now, and I’ll continue to fine tune some of the details as I go along this week. But I think  I’ve ironed out (mostly, anyway) the biggest hitch, which was why there was so much animosity between the two halves of society, and what is the catalyst that prompts any sort of action within the story. I knew that the people who lived outside the cities didn’t like the people who lived wrapped up in technology and virtual reality. But, when the story hinged around these people planning something against their “enemies,” things started to make less sense. I realize that, within humanity, it’s really not so far fetched to hurt someone simply because you don’t like them. But I wanted something deeper, and I found it.

Instead of any one half of society attacking the other, these two girls who have learned the middle ground are interested in exposing the lies everyone has been believing and creating a new, unified society. It will mean breaking down barriers and dismantling stereotypes. It will mean people learning to embrace change and differences. It will mean agreeing to disagree, and not allowing that to be poisonous.

These kinds of big changes are scary, and can be seen as rebellion. So when Aliyah gets in trouble, she has to wrestle with whether it’s worth pursuing. Do you chase after your big dreams, even if the people who benefit don’t deserve it? Do you continue to reach for a better life, even if part of you believes you’ll never get there? When life kicks you down, is it even worth getting back up?

When I first started in on this project, I thought it was a story about a girl who sought refuge in books, who used them to hide from reality. Now, that’s not even worth mentioning, in the grand scheme of the story. Now, it’s largely become about discussing these big questions. If it ever gets finished and published, it’s possible some people might look at it as a critique on government, technology, even environmentalism (at least, that’s what people could think based on what it is now), and while those themes are things that I’m looking at, and may grow to be bigger topics as the story progresses, at it’s core, these big life questions have shown themselves essential. They are the story that’s begging to be told. And I hope the answer will be helpful to some, even if I don’t know what it is yet.

For all I know, they give up and nothing changes. I haven’t finished wrestling yet.

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