I have spent the last two years writing and developing Grofast Industries. Admittedly, it’s not the only thing I’ve been doing. I’ve made friends, lost friends, learned to cook, felt amazing about myself, hated myself, cried, been held, held, heard cries, moved halfway across the country, and on occasion made more than a little difference in the lives of some of the people I care about. For the past eleven months I have also had a job, and before that I had school. So it’s not like 2 years X 12 months X 30 days X 24 hours worth of work, but like, it’s still a lot. More than I’ve spent working on anything else, at least.
Six years is how long I like to tell people I’ve been writing, but if we start including the self-insert Trek fic I wrote as a kid, the real range is unfortunately quite a bit longer. The six years, though, is how long I’ve spent actually putting forward a serious effort to get words onto the page, but more importantly, six years is how long I have been using writing as a way to critique myself.
It started after a breakup with me wanting to craft another story where I mattered but ended up as something else. What was originally a masturbation of self-absorbed heroism evolved into something deeply uncomfortable which forced me to ask myself where I was looking for meaning and why I really thought it was important to find it there. I had to confront the truth that finding another girlfriend wasn’t going to solve my problem because the issues ran so much deeper. I realised the universe had no purpose, no plan, no certainty, and that nothing really “matters” or has “meaning,” except insofar as it matters or has meaning to us. Given all that, could I be happy? It was only when I wrote the ending that I found out that the answer was yes. I hadn’t thought of any of this when I started, and writing turned out to be as much an act of discovery as anything else, and not always a fun one.
And that’s what writing has become, and that is what Grofast is. For six years I have been trying to figure out what it means for your life to have meaning: to feel as if the things you do matter, or if even asking that question is just another way of avoiding some simple, uncomfortable truth. This search has come out in everything I have made, and nothing has been more impactful in my life than those times I’ve felt like I’ve actually come close to hitting it — like, really hitting it. They’re the times that I’m not even thinking, just letting the words pour out and splatter onto the page and I feel them and I’m like: yes, this is it. This is the thing. This is how I feel. This is the thing I could say, but you wouldn’t get it. This is the thing that couldn’t be spelled out; it couldn’t be defined or categorised. You couldn’t get it across in five words; you couldn’t get it across in ten. It couldn’t be an essay where I told you what to think — as if I could ever even hope to encode like that — without an endless stream of qualifiers and except for’s, and even then it wouldn’t feel right. It had to be a story. It needed to have characters and it needed to be this carefully constructed mess of thoughts, feelings, and only half-explained truths. It needed to be a whisper because, if said any louder, it would only be noise. Writing is not so much the act of telling, but of begging you to hear.
And Grofast is it. Grofast is the story I have been trying to write all these years. When I say it’s the story I’ve been trying to write, I’m not talking about the characters: they are all new. I don’t mean the setting because in all truth it was arbitrary. I don’t mean the plot, because that changed fifteen times in this project alone, never mind the many others I’ve finished or not. It’s not the motivations, the conflicts, the twists, or the politics — no. What I am talking about happens only when you’ve written, you’ve written, you’ve written, and you’ve run out of all those things. You have nothing left to write but you keep going anyway. You make draft, after draft, after draft, and hate yourself but you keep going until eventually the characters, the setting, the plot, the motivations, and the twists: none of them change. This is the thing beneath them all. This is the thing that in all these years I have only come close to, but never quite found. There were always clues along the way: evocative but like any uncovered, forgotten artifact ill-understood and only speculated upon, just another shattered fragment of a some ever hinted at but always absent whole. But this is it. Understanding? I don’t know if I’d go that far, but whatever it is: this is it. I did it. For whatever it is worth, I did it.
And here I am: feeling nothing. I wonder what success looks like. I feel like I just described it, but now that I’m here it feels only technical, like something I could check off on a form somewhere and hand it to someone who’d nod, say “mm-hmm” and then put it in the pile with all the other success stories. The last project I finished, In A Flash, felt the same way. Nothing was as good as when I was writing it, and nothing as pointless as when it was done.
So now I ask myself: what is success? What is it I’m looking for? If happiness is out there, where is it? I recently read Charles Yu’s How to Survive in a Science Fictional Universe, and so should you, because it’s the best book I’ve read all year. When I finished it, I thought to myself: I wish I were him. He is doing the things I want to be doing. He did it; he’s successful; if I was him, I’d be successful. Then I think of all the other people whose writing has mattered to me, and I think: they are all successful. I would be happy if I was any of them. So what do I want? Fame? Recognition? Probably. I have an uncomfortable relationship with the approval of others, but even still, I probably wouldn’t be happy, I would just hate the fact that I cared. I read their blogs and they are certainly not happy. They talk about all the same shit I do — so what? What is it I think that these people have, that I don’t? What is it that makes me feel like they are successful and I’m not? What’s to envy?
Then it came to me. Charles Yu is successful because his work mattered to me. Davey Wreden is successful because the Beginner’s Guide started me on the journey of thinking about half this shit. Christine Love is successful because I wondered about my sexuality while playing her game. There is only one constant amongst them: me. They are successful because they matter to me.
And that is the thing I don’t have: I don’t matter to me. What I’m looking for is not out there, it’s in here. It’s in this room with me, writing this piece. I only need to open myself up and let me care — let me say to myself that I am good, worthy, whatever, etc, but I realise every time I look in the mirror that I can’t without feeling sick. I know that now, and I’m not sure if it’s a blessing or a curse because on the one hand, I am one step closer to finding success, while on the other, I have just realised the journey there is much harder than any contest Grofast could ever hope to win.
Grofast Industries will be released in Early December 2016.