April 22, 2015 by Ray Yanek
I had one of those episodes the other day.
Not, thankfully, one that left me in the produce aisle of Wal-mart holding a fishing pole and wearing only one shoe.
Rather, it was one of those episodes where, while out for a jog, I found that peacefulness where story ideas sometimes materialize. This time, almost the entire story manifested, which very rarely happens.
I was thrilled. The next day I started the story and it flowed. New bits and pieces of the protagonist came as I typed and I was well over my daily word counts before finishing my first cup of coffee.
Until the third day. Until I arrived at the end.
Then I hit the wall.
I had no problems finding the time to sit down and write the ending. All the dominoes were in place, and all I had to do was knock them down. I knew exactly what was going to happen and how it was going to happen, but yet I found myself distracted by every little thing–Twitter, my unevenly cut fingernail, something I thought was floating in my coffee, the crow sitting on the window sill giving me the evil eye, and so on.
The day rolled on…
This isn’t the first time I’ve found myself unable to close out a story, even if that ending is absolutely clear in my head. When I know, either consciously or subconsciously that I’m closing in on the end, I get nervous. Jumpy. Even a little irritable and pissy and I never understood why.
After much staring at the wall though, I think I’ve found a couple reasons for this failure to close. These reasons are nothing new or novel but they are reasons, I think, that I need to address and acknowledge.
To finish something means it is, in fact, finished. It’s ready for people to read and by default, it’s also ready to be judged.
I shot this idea down at first and reminded myself I was only finishing rough drafts for goodness sake, (yes, I said goodness sake) first drafts–drafts that hadn’t even been spell checked, much less revised the 4 or 5 times they undoubtedly would need. No one was going to read those words unless they hacked into my Google account and I use the 2 step-verification system, damn it.
I should have been safe.
But actually someone would read those sloppy first drafts, and that reader is a terribly rude, vitriolic, and down-right nasty critic.
That person is me.
See, I never look back when I write the first draft. I don’t revise as I go. Like many other writers, I do this because if I revised, that critic would paralyze me and either keep me from ever writing another shitty word or he would keep me revising until I lost the rest of the story.
As part of the process, I kinda have to go back when I finish the draft. I have to evaluate myself and I can be very, very hard on myself.
If I don’t finish that story though, then I don’t have to go back and suffer through reading it. As hard as this is to admit too, if I don’t finish I remain, on the subconscious level, a ‘could have been’ rather than someone ‘who isn’t good enough’.
If I finish, I have to start again.
I have to go through that whole act of faith again. I have to sit in front of that blank screen and hope that something new presents itself. And what if the idea doesn’t come? What does that mean?
And the answer to that question would be that I’m a fraud. That I was a one-trick pony. That I was just playing at writing.
Perhaps these reasons why I have such a hard time finishing works could have been distilled to one reason then–the belief that maybe, just maybe, I’m not good enough.
Can I beat that fear? I don’t think so. I don’t think anyone ever really can. The fear of not being a good or a real writer, or of not being good enough in general is a deep seated fear. It burrows in down there by our core in a house not of straw but of brick. Every writer, every creative individual–even the most successful–still faces that fear.
But they keep going. They keep plugging along, trying to pretend that the fear doesn’t exist.
That it’s not always lurking in those shadows.
Waiting for the end.
I realize this ended on a rather bleak note, but on the good side I did finish that story, finally. 🙂
Now, I just need to finish….