406: “The Queer Art of Failure” (Jack Halberstam)

                “This is a story of art without markets, drama without a script, narrative without progress. The queer art of failure turns on the impossible, the improbable, the unlikely, and the unremarkable. It quietly loses, and in losing it imagines other goals for life, for love, for art, and for being.”
                -Jack Halberstam, The Queer Art of Failure

                I finished another draft of my novel (ninth, by some measures, or twenty-third, depending; I can’t really separate the rewriting into drafts) in April, 2022. And again in late October. Then I lay in bed, thinking over a section I wanted to rewrite, and finished again in mid November. (My partner was very patient with me. I’d tell them, “I finished!” and they’d be all excited for me. It wasn’t until after the third or fourth time that they asked, a few hours later “You’ve said that before, right?”).  I “finished” again in December, though really there was a section I wanted to pick back up. In January I started back on page one, and I’m walking my way through the whole manuscript again. These characters, they trick and inspire me. The questions they’re asking are questions I’m still asking, and I learn a lot from how they’re trying to support each other. Though just now I haven’t worked on it in a week or more.
                I’ve given up on this novel a number of times. And come back. I’ve failed again and again to make this story what I thought it would be—and stumbled closer to what it is. During my MFA, when I felt I had to push through and finish the book for good and always, the words started making me sick. I couldn’t keep walking with these characters until I realized I would rather fail to finish a draft than write a draft that didn’t feel messy and loving and complete.  Embracing that messiness, that mix of cans and can’ts, of identities and relationships—that’s what this book project has always been.
                So I love Halberstam’s reminder. Where am I failing today, what am I losing? And by failing, what else can I make, how else can I love, what else can I be?

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