Because I can’t cope unless I work ahead, I just completed the first draft of what will eventually be Unlife Chapter 8. I’ve been writing this thing in earnest for the last two months or so with mixed success, though each misstep has brought me closer to what I envision as the comic’s future. I’ve known the events that needed to happen for a while, but committing them to the page and finding the pacing and story that exists beyond my imagination has so far thwarted me… for the time being. I normally don’t stop a draft until it’s written to completion. This time, I had to. It just wasn’t ready yet.
Just because you work in advance, doesn’t mean the project is ready. Unlife’s chapters usually have a year of gestation between completion and being turned into comic form. The current chapter was written last year, and we’re hardly 1/3rd of the way through it yet. But this time, I rushed the time table, wanting to have a clear path to not just chapter 8, but the chapters proceeding from it as well. I did a lot of good work on it. And yet…
The short explanation is that it’s still missing a layer. Think of script writing as building a house. Sure, you can make blueprints upon blueprints, trying to plan for every contingency, but you’ll never be able to account for all the x factors that inevitably arise. The plans exist. The house exists. But there will always be that separation between plans and reality.
When the house is a script, it’s the transition from text to subtext that’s woefully absent in the best laid plans. There’s the text of what’s happening (zombies, evil corporations, etc), and then there’s the subtext (feeling lost in life, dead-end job, etc). It would be far simpler if Jenners just said, “I am confused and sad because I wanted to be the main character and now that things are happening I feel blah,” it doesn’t really ring true or make for a well told story.
And without that missing layer, the foundation crumbles. The chapter, as it stands, would shatter. Which is fine, because I still have till 2017 to finish it (yeah, there’s that much of Chapter 7 left). In truth, I was merely taking advantage of the time I had, rushing to finish the house because…
Because sometimes I’m tired of building the house and want to be able to enjoy living in it when it’s complete. To savor it, as opposed to building it and then immediately moving on to build the next two houses across the street. It’s exhausting, and leaves me little ability to appreciate what Unlife is, instead focused on what it could and should be. And that’s hard. But if it’s not ready to be built, then what can I do?
Unlife is a journey about growing up, depression, addiction, and looking for life when you feel like it left you behind. That moment that begins a few years after college when you are submerged in a world you feel unready for. And you try to make sense of it, in safety but on someone else’s terms, or on your own with no guarantees. And then you realize that everyone is also on that path, no matter what they chose or how far along they are. You cling to what brings you joy, scrambling for more as the mind and the heart wage war upon each other. And though it would be nice to skip to the end of that journey, to cut to the chase and just be done, content, and ready to move on…
James isn’t there yet. And so, neither am I. Or vice versa. I don’t know. It’s super confusing.
Maybe the dust will clear now and I can see the house for what it is instead of what it should be. Instead of thinking about the future of Unlife, or being stuck in its past, I can just live in the now and let it… live, I guess. And when Chapter 8 is ready, it will show itself. The house will be built. Because it wants to be built. It needs to be built. So I’ll take my time. I can wait.
Or it’ll be a month before the new chapter and nothing will be written, and I’ll end up writing it with a horrible deadline. That works too, I guess.