Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Let's Talk about the Illness

I am on page 65 of what I have decided to call the third draft of the current work-in-progress. It's proving much harder than it should. I've got a complete story, for goodness sake! A start to finish story with a beginning, a middle and an end. But this is my weakness, I understand. I love starting things. I enjoy diving head-long into a project and spending countless hours, days, weeks in the flow, losing track of time. Now I can see the finish line.

This is the biggest, hardest, most complicated story I have ever attempted to complete, and I feel myself slowing down. It would be SO EASY to walk away right now. It would be simple to start a new project that was full of fun, creative energy.

But that's not going to happen with this one. There is no doubt in my mind that I will finish this book. In spite of the fact that it may actually be crap.... in spite of the fact that people may hate it... I've been down this road so many times and I understand, now, how to cross the finish line.

That doesn't make it any easier.

That doesn't mean it's going to be effortless.

"You still have those doubts?" I asked my friend, Cheryl (who has published two books, and has nine years under her belt as a newspaper columnist, and has won awards with her writing and gets invited -- regularly -- to speak at events and do readings).

"Every day," she said.

What is it about being a writer that makes us feel like we are a continual work-in-progress, not quite there yet?

I fell into bed exhausted last night, scolding myself (just a little bit) for not getting more done on the work-in-progress. A little while later -- still not asleep, wondering if I was really as tired as I thought I was, or if I was just avoiding the work ahead -- I realized that I was plotting the NEXT novel. The one that follows the current work-in-progress. As if I haven't had enough of these crazy characters already. Full scenes from part II of this story are already being written in my mind.

This is the illness, the affliction.

It would make more sense to walk away, to just be done with words. I could get a job tending bar. I've been thinking of that as a job I'd like to try out. Pouring drinks. Watching people. Absorbing stories.

Like that would give me nothing to want to write about.


  1. I don't think you're alone in feeling this way. Probably way more common in writers than you think. I know you'll keep at it until it's finished. Then comes the editing and editing and... :)

  2. This is what I've just learned to do: Spend some time sitting, asking yourself... What's the fear behind moving ahead? Is it that you don't know where to go next with the story? Is it a fear that the book won't be successful? Is it a fear that it won't sound as good as the story in your head? Is it that you don't want to face the process every day? Fear of having to go out and peddle the book? Just play around with all the possible fears that it could be. When you find the fear that it is, just feel that fear, let it sit inside you. Do you feel it in your chest, your throat? Feel the fear fully and completely until it lifts.

  3. Did this sound like fear? ;-) I was thinking more along the lines being inflicted with impatience and lack of focus. I don't feel like I struggle as much with fear these days. It's more about getting myself to stick to the task rather than rushing off to do something that feels like less work.

  4. Ugh. I can so relate. I've already mapped out the beginning of a story I won't allow myself to begin until a year or two down the road. But I can't stop thinking about it!

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