I Know I Can’t Return

For the past six-odd years, I’ve been working on a manuscript. I call it a manuscript because right now, it doesn’t really resemble a novel, despite clocking in at around 69,000 words. I still have at least 60,000 more words to squeeze out of myself before I make it to the end of the story.

I’ve tried everything to make the writing go faster. Outlining, flying by the seat of my pants, challenging myself to “page-a-day” contests with friends, joining a writing workshop. All of it helps, but none of it accelerates my pace in any tangible way. For some reason, this story is the kind that I can only discover bit by tiny bit, unraveling each meticulous puzzle piece one at a time. It’s like sailing through a fog most days.

Maybe someday I’ll write something that’s a breeze – that flows out of me the way stories used to when I was young. In the meantime, the challenge of this one keeps me moving forward, even when I feel utterly unequal to the task. You know what else keeps me moving forward? VNV Nation.

I KNOW. It’s so horribly cliché to say that a particular artist has written the soundtrack to your book (or a character), but VNV’s music is full of all the same themes that fuel my current story: wars of the self playing out on a global scale, futurism, our place in the cosmos, the pull of memory and regret, the abuse of power… and so on. When I’m feeling uninspired, or like I’ve lost the thread of the story, I put on VNV and suddenly remember exactly what it is I want to accomplish. I think that’s what drew me to their music in the first place: they talk about all the things that I think about.

But my favorite track – the one that kicks me in the gut every time I hear it – is a very short one, more of a spoken poem than a song, called “Distant (Rubicon II)”.  I wish I could say why this fits my old-man-scientist character so well, but for now, I just want to post it and expose it to people, because… isn’t it beautiful?

Gah. It kills me.


The paths that I once tread have all but gone
Only embers now smoulder where bridges once burned
I feel alive and yet I fear what may happen now
I know I can’t return

And I hear me say again, “Oh, let me not return.”
Damn the illusions of redemption and the hopes that held me here
I will oppose all that would befall me, with this rage inside of me
I’ll defy what I would become

The solitude and anger that do battle inside me
Will always guide me to the answers that I know I may not see
They are the bonds that hold me tighter
They are the chains that weigh on me
One day I know they will be gone

Can I start again, and erase this pain?
By casting doubts into the waters,
Asking judgement of the sea?
Though fortune may guide the fools
I have no wish to be free
Until I am gone.

And now, my rear has officially been kicked into gear. Back to writing. Back to the fog. Back to old-man-scientist and his crazy comrades and… why did I choose to write sci-fi again? (This stuff is HARD.)

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