The Effect of Losing Existential Angst In Writing My Novel

My novel, as I envision it, is a Bildungsroman structured after the pastoral elegy. It is a portrait of the curious condition of urban loneliness and contains undercurrents of faith. The novel follows Mark, a young salesman who makes barely enough money to purchase bespoke suits. He is anachronistically old-fashioned in a modern world, and is trying to make sense of how to get along in the world. He laments the death of childhood and innocence, and is seeking a sense of integrity in his life. Always looking back over his shoulder at the past and to his memories, Mark finds himself failing to connect with others around him due in part to his curse of nostalgia. By novel’s end, we see that Mark begins to grow into adulthood. He forgoes the past and looks to the future with renewed faith in the gentleman’s code of conduct. Where he once saw a world of pain, suffering, and stupidity that he detaches from, he comes to engage in and participate in that world. The novel, hopefully, is an expression of a suggestion for the liminal outsiders and sensitive people of the world on how to get by in the world.

My novel was not always like this. It started off as a mere portrait of loneliness in its many forms, an examination of the causes of the condition. Five years ago, I was still struggling with what young people all struggle with: Who am I? What is my life’s commitment? Do I hold fast to my beliefs and act in accordance with them, or do I conform to society? I was driven to artistic expression because I felt the loneliness so deeply and intensely. As clichéd as it is, it was angst, frustration, and sadness that drove me to express myself in the form of a novel. But what happens when all that loneliness disappears? What happens when some of those very important questions have been answered?

I must admit that I lost that fire in my gut. Over the years, I have of course matured. Having done so, I lost a bit of the youthful idealism that served as a driving force for my novel. No longer am I so lonely. Where I was once maladjusted, aloof, and pessimistic, I am now (apparently) more charming, socialized, and optimistic. Now that the world seems brighter and my life seems to be taking a turn for the better, I have a less urgent need for expression. I have other outlets for my emotions, namely found in other people whom I have learned to connect with. As such, I find myself lacking the highly focused drive that I once had that helped motivate me in my writing.

I am still trying though, difficult as it is. I’ve come to the point where my vision for the novel has strayed far enough from the original vision that I needed to rework the entire story. I used the tried-and-true method of using index cards to layout the plot, and I quickly came to realize that I needed to do quite a bit of work. The first half of my story that involves the rise and fall of Mark’s (very tiny) social life was fleshed out quite well; however, the second half in which he meets a sort of ‘wise old woman’ figure needs much work. As it stands, I am still not sure how Mark is pushed by this woman into adventures or trials that lead to revelations that help him mature.

The advantage of this time and distance is that my novel has gained more depth and complexity. I have mapped out eight arcs that should hopefully appear in my novel, and my hope is to effectively create a richly textured story that reflects that depth. It is enormously difficult to create stories that have such depth of meaning in them—each and every occurrence must be written in such a way that encourages different interpretations that are closely related and equally valid. I can only hope to achieve that goal in full.

My greatest fear now is that I will not finish my novel due to the fact that the issues that were being dealt with in the the novel itself have largely been alleviated in my own life. I suppose that it was true that I was holding on to the loneliness in order to fuel my own writing. Now that I have let go of it, I suppose that I need to use that distance to create a more balanced and meaningful work. Time will tell. ¶