On Finishing and Fear
I’m the worst at acknowledging when a writing project is done. If you know me, you know that I’ve been sitting on a “finished” nonfiction manuscript for over a year. Recently, I also completed my first chapbook, and am in the revision phase of a second (a collaboration, but more on this later). It’s so hard to look at any of these projects and think this is over.
But they are, and I think that’s where the fright lives. If I don’t have my hands in a project, whether they are writing, revising or actually covered in paint, then I’m not happy.
I might think I’m happy when I finish a video game I’ve been picking at for months, but for the most part that’s just satisfaction. I am satisfied for a moment when I hibernate on the couch and binge on episodes of Doctor Who. It doesn’t last, though. This emptiness creeps in, and I look at my hands, doing nothing, and feel lost. I won’t have a reason to leave the couch.
The alternative is, of course, working on a project that’s going to take me ages to finish. This is why I recently bought twenty of the same size canvas and stowed them away for some visual chapbook idea I haven’t had yet. That yet, though, the space between ideas, is where I am, and that is why I am afraid.
I’ve identified as a writer for a long time—all of my adult life so far, and some time before that. It’s been easy, because even though the frequency isn’t the same, I’ve always written. I’ve always had ideas. Inspiration happens, of course, but that’s a fleeting thing that can’t be relied on. Inspiration and ideas are different. Inspiration is a lie I tell myself when I am lazy. I can’t work on this now. I’m not inspired. Having an idea, concrete or not, means I have to work. Writers work.
For now, I will revise as hard as I can, but that won’t last long. I can stretch this process out by showing more writing to more dear friends and waiting for inspiration for my next project while they look these over. I won’t, though, because I want so desperately to write. That’s weird.
I’m sure I’ve posted about this before, but some really wise writers over the years have told me that the difference between a writer that “makes it” and a writer that doesn’t is persistence. I think that continuing to write despite myself is part of that persistence. The other part is the odd grief I carry around with me. I have many dear friends that were writers at one point in their lives, likely the part where our lives first intersected, that aren’t writers anymore. This hurts me because I don’t understand how or why it happens.
I’m not making a comment about anyone else’s life choices—I’m sure that in their own way they are very happy people, and satisfied—but I wouldn’t be. I think I grieve for the alternate universe version of myself that is like them, missing out on whatever this is. Maybe this is the feeling of finishing what I start. What I know for sure is my fear of not having the next “big idea” is nowhere near as large as my fear of not writing at all.
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