The final nail, or the final push…

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Whoa…  my head’s spinning right now. Instead of getting things done tonight that I had planned, I ended up glued to my chair in the living room, watching episodes of a show I never thought about until tonight. I remember feeling a passing interest in it when it came out, but being shallow and stuff, I didn’t see anyone ‘cute’ in it, and since it was on ABC Family, I figured it would be kind of like 7th Heaven or something: too wholesome to be interesting.

Ugggggh. NETFLIX did it to me. It was a “suggested for L” item, and when I was scrolling through today when I sat down to eat dinner, I thought I might as well click on Kyle XY and watch a little. Just to see what it was all about.

In some ways, I wish I hadn’t watched it at all. I wish I just watched more Whitest Kids U Know. That’s a safe, reliable show I can enjoy for straight-up entertainment. But, I’m glad in a way that I watched Kyle XY… I couldn’t look away. I just watched 5 episodes in a row.

You know how I always bitch and moan about books coming out that are like my book? Well, damn it anyway… now there is this show. I don’t know how many of you have seen it. I certainly never heard anyone, anywhere, talking about watching it. Holy crap, though. It’s definitely the closest any form of entertainment has gotten to what I am ultimately getting at with my book about Zachary. Kyle’s not a hybrid, not half animal. But there’s so many other bigger, more intense similarities to my story. On first glance, it doesn’t look much like my book at all. The story of the show doesn’t seem to go in the way I have been writing my book, which is good. But the character development is what had me stuck in one place. I saw things in the way this show is written that are doing what I wanted to do… but I dare say, possibly better.

For the first time since I began my weird freak-outs about similar fiction to my writing, I’m honestly thinking, “Damn, that is a good way to do that. Wish I thought of that.” Oddly, the very first iteration of my book, the handwritten 100 pages, actually is very similar to the way this show seems to be unfolding. So I thought of this kind of story all those years ago. Wow. I could have written this show. I could have gotten off my butt and wrote things and put those things out there. Tried to get an agent, start networking and meet people…

And then, there is the comic book situation that I usually forget about entirely. Back in 2001 or so, I took a creative writing class at the community college with my friend Sara, just for fun. I ended up writing some pivotal scenes in Zachary’s story during that class. The shark attack scene is almost STILL verbatim from what I wrote in that draft! Anyway, we had to read aloud our work to the class. I read mine, and to be honest it wasn’t like anything else anyone in there was doing. They were writing semi-autobiographical stories that weren’t really fleshed out or written in a way that grabbed anyone. I sound like I am being egotistical, but I’m not, really. What I am trying to get across is that my story was the best writing in the class, and I know it because the class started to literally look forward to what I was writing next on the story. When I read the shark attack scene, it was dead silent. At a highly dramatic moment, a couple people actually gasped. My writing made people gasp. Do you have any idea how frickin’ cool that is?! I was riding high. I started to think I was on to something, and my story really did have a shot at being published… when I finished it.

Anyway, one of the guys in the class apparently talked to one of his friends about the story I read in class. Turns out that this friend was a publisher of an upstart comic book label. In the next class, this guy told me that there was someone interested in meeting with me about doing my story as a comic book. He shyly admitted he let his friend read the printout of the scene I wrote. I could not believe someone was passing my stuff along to other people… it was like a dream come true.

So, I ended up getting in touch with the publisher. We met a couple of times to talk about turning Zachary into a comic book series. However, there were big creative differences. For one, this guy wanted to retain 50% of the rights to my story, which I was scared of for some reason. Second, he wanted me to kind of morph my story into something that, I swear to God, is what I ended up doing anyway years later: He thought that Zachary should be more “the perfect soldier” and a military experiment, and there should be lots of action and mystery.

Back then, Zachary looked a lot different… believe it or not, he lived in a commune. Idealistic scientists (members of a secret, worldwide society known as the Coalition) were trying to find a way to bring the best of people to the forefront by adding characteristics of some intelligent animals. It was to create a higher level of intelligence, and perhaps find a way to save the planet. It was a hippie story. Zachary was a much-loved, celebrated “Adam” type of character. No one would ever hurt him, and he was just really curious about the outside world. He rode away on his bike one day and no one chased him, or did anything to track him down. He was out on a quest to live as a human.

Anyway, when I met comic book guy, I was REALLY passionate about that iteration of my story. Seriously? He thought I should make Zachary into something like an action hero? OMG, no way. Besides, that old 100 page draft I talked about? That was a military story, with Zachary not knowing who he was and suddenly finding out his powers and stuff. I had gotten bored with that version, and flipped it 180 degrees so it became that “commune” version.

In the end, I passed on working with the comic book publisher. I didn’t feel right doing that to my story, back then.

Now, I wonder. I wonder if I could have made something of this story, this character, and that was my chance to push myself and the story. And I didn’t take it. Stupid ideals, stupid stubbornness about how awesome my story was, yadda yadda. At the time it was the right thing to do, I thought. But after watching frickin’ Kyle XY unfold in some very cool ways, I feel jealous of the people who wrote it, and a little annoyed at myself all over again for not working harder, not doing this. I live one state away from CA, I could have moved to LA and began working in production and worked my way into script supervision, or something. And maybe I would have been the lead writer on a show called Zachary XY.

There is no sense in thinking that, though. I know that.

Woulda coulda shoulda.

None of it makes the present change in any way, so it is pointless to let these thoughts linger and eat away at me. This is exactly why I’m writing this out right now. I want to put everything that’s swirling around in my head into perspective. I want to admit that yes, as I watched this show, I started to cry. I want to admit that I thought about this being a sign from the universe; that this really is the final nail in my story’s coffin, for me. I needed this to help me let this one go and move on to other books and other ideas.

RE: My book? It’s been done. Stop torturing yourself with this. Let it go. Write something new and amazing, and even better!

And let this be a lesson to you about procrastination. And the dangers of being my usual, horrible mashup of low self-esteem and lack of discipline.

I can’t let this happen to another story in my head.

I can’t handle it. No kidding. You’d think it would be my depression that would ultimately do me in and be too much for me to handle, but no. The thing that would result in my being committed is if I knew I was repeating this mistake and didn’t actually learn any lessons here. I think my brain really would just spin out.

I know I’ve talked a lot about this. I’m sorry. I know you all know about how this story is in my head every damn day. How I never go more than a few hours without thinking of my story in some way. So many things remind me of different aspects of the story. If I go to a concert, you’d think I’d be just having a great time and losing myself in the show. Nope. Sooner or later as I stand there, I’ll imagine Zachary at a concert. I could be grocery shopping and see a food I don’t normally eat, and imagine how Zachary would experience a grocery store and the wide range of weird foods. It never ends. I’m not being dramatic. It’s true. I never stop doing this. And it has been this way for over 13 years now.

You try walking around with that, being so ingrained and invested in a story, for that much time. It can be too much. I’ve tried to explain it to therapists and my psychiatrist, but they assure me it’s a normal part of the creative process. In fact, they try to make me feel pumped up over it, and say things like “that’s great that you have so much passion for your writing; don’t downplay it, nurture it.” I see the point. I really do. Yet, here I am.

I’m getting older and nothing is happening. And it’s my fault. No one else but me. I’m the one who has not written it out and gotten it out of my system. I know I’ll feel better once I write the closing paragraph of this story. For instance, my book Wounded Bird took me about two years to write, and for those two years I was doing the same mental-preoccupation with the story that I’ve been doing, now, with this one. But I can honestly say that once I finished writing that story, it was OUT. I didn’t think about it all the time anymore. So, I have experience with this precise thing and I know that finishing a story really is the key to feeling better. And being able to move on to another story.

Maybe sometime soon I will stop being so focused on myself and this story. I will stop whining about this same damn thing over and over again, every time I encounter a story that has similar elements to mine. That will be nice, won’t it?!

So, right now, I see two directions I can take with this. I’m sure you can guess them, too.

One: I take a deep breath, and close the open Zachary files and create a new folder on my USB drive. For a brand new story. And I let that brand new story just take over. I’ll feel a fresh start, which will be awesome. In time, Zachary will just be this story I started and well, it never panned out. To be honest, it’s not the first time I started a book and abandoned it. I had a gay love story based in the drug culture going for a year or so in college that I thought was really great, at the time. It fizzled. And I don’t lose sleep over it. I moved on. I can move on from this, too. It is possible.

Two: I take a deep breath, and re-open my Zachary files and keep writing. I could take this ridiculous Kyle XY thing in the other direction and let it inspire me with my own story. I mean, these are the stories I am drawn to, all the time. I love this stuff. I could totally watch ALL the Kyle XY episodes and revel in the similarities, but get jazzed on ideas for my own spin on things. In other words, I don’t let this stop me. I let it fuel me.

I’ll see how I feel tomorrow. Until then… wow. Consider my mind a little haywire up there. I’ll work it out.

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4 responses »

  1. Whatever you decide to do is going to be what is best. Because you are a fabulous writer and it’s your creative process you have to listen to. If you have to leave Zachary, do it and move on. You know you can write something else, you have written so many things. And people LIKE your work. You have gotten great feedback from a lot of people and you yourself said your classmates gasped. You can write anything because you are GOOD.

    If you go ahead and finish Zachary, do it with gusto and don’t hold back. Push yourself to put it out there. Accept comments, criticisms, even rejection because it is part of the process. But don’t let it get to you, bring you down. Remember you started writing for YOU. Yes, getting a story picked up would be a dream come true but don’t short yourself because of it. You didn’t bow to the comic book thing because that was not for you then. You’ve grown and now you may want different things, but that doesn’t mean you were wrong to say no then. You know how best to market yourself in your way. You are wonderful. Don’t let anyone tell you different. 🙂

  2. I used to catch bits of that show, back when we had satellite; usually because it was on before/after something I actually wanted to watch. I could never get into it, but that kind of stuff has never been my thing, anyway. Is it still even on? or was it canceled after about 3 seasons?

    Anyway, I think a lot of what you are experiencing is one of the many facets of having dreams. Some say dreams are the foundation upon which you build your life. Others say dreams are what motivate you to keep moving forward. Still others say that dreams are the happy things we distract ourselves with when real life gets too hard. I think maybe you’re kind of stuck in that last option, since you seem to enjoy thinking about your story so much more than you do writing it and making it happen. Kind of like when I used to keep myself awake at night telling myself stories in my head, rather than sleeping. It was just more fun than falling asleep and maybe having a good dream that I might or might not remember. Maybe writing, for you, just can’t happen when real life isn’t exactly in order…?

  3. CP — Wow…thank you. You said such encouraging words here; it’s so touching. It’s true that I did what was best for me, at the time, back then. And all along, I guess. I think I just want to look back on my life someday and know I did all I could and made the most of the life I was given. That’s what it’s really all about. This story, or another story– it almost doesn’t matter WHICH story– the point is, I have always been making up stories and writing, and it’s just who I am. I have to be strong and better than the little mental demons that jump up and nip at my resolve and confidence. And you’re right, I won’t let anyone tell me different! Thanks. Really.

    Jen — No, the show isn’t still on. I don’t even know how many seasons there are yet. In the light of day, I’m already feeling better about my own story and how it’s NOT the SAME THING as the show. I always do this to myself. I freak out and immediately let it get to me. I can’t do that. I can have my moment of freaking-out, but I think the important thing is that I get past it. That’s what I am trying to do. I’m trying to be bigger and better than my insecurities.

    RE: “… you seem to enjoy thinking about your story so much more than you do writing it and making it happen.” Very true, lately. Maybe always. You’re on to something here, I think, with the idea that maybe it can’t happen because real life isn’t in order. Man, you’re making me think! I’m going to privately write out some stuff to try to put this perspective into black and white so I can get closer to pinpointing the things in real life that I can change, right now, and the things I can work on over time. Thanks for being so insightful!! Did you ever think of a career in counseling? I’m serious! You’re good at this!

  4. I’ve heard of that Kyle XY but never watched it. I try to stay away from the ABC Family channel.

    Anyway, I think either of the options you have before you could lead to success. It might be possible to put Zachary away and channel your writing energy into something new and exciting, but I don’t think you have to put it in the attic with, like, a padlock on it. I made the mistake of getting rid of all the little fits and starts of my writing I had lying around. They’re completely gone, in the trash, never to return. Now, most of it probably should have never seen the light of day so I don’t have the attachment that you do for Zachary, but I still regret destroying them. Maybe something could have sparked a new story, one I could finish.

    Long story short, as long as you don’t throw Zachary away, it’s perfectly reasonable to put him away. For however long it takes. Then you’re free to come up with whatever else you want, to write something awesome and get published, and maybe something will spark an idea and you’ll HAVE to get back to Zachary. Or maybe not. As long as you keep writing, I think you can’t go wrong.

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