The closer I get to finishing my book, the stronger the resistance gets. I am Frodo, crawling up Mount Doom, the weight of my precious book dragging on the ground beneath me.
I’ve been working on writing the ending. I’ve been saying this for the last several weeks. I’ve been saying it since the edited portion of the book was sitting at around 30,000 words, and now I have 50,000 words that are completely locked down. I honestly think I have 5,000 or less to go. I’m nearly done.
And when I’m done, I’m going to burn it.
This is the most common thought I hear whispered in my mind. Burn it. This voice has progressed in violence over the course of the 18 months I’ve been working on this thing. It started by letting me know the book probably wouldn’t get finished, but that was okay. Then it let me know that writing a book was really hard, and maybe I wasn’t cut out for it. Then it started in on some character defamation: Who are you to write this book? Why would anyone want to read something you wrote? And now, as I near the end of it, the voice is starting to have a high-pitched panic to it. When you finish it, you must destroy it.
I know I’m not crazy. I know this is all part of the whole creating gig. I know it’s because I’m afraid. I’m afraid people will hate my book. I’m afraid people will love my book. I’m afraid I wasted my time writing it. I’m afraid that it will get big enough that I’ll have to devote more time to it after publishing it. There’s a lot of fear in this thing. But that doesn’t mean I’m weak or helpless, because I also know that when the fears are big, my courage is big. So I keep hitting the page. I keep putting words, one in front of another, into the places they belong. And I’ve hidden all the matches in the house.
In case you might be in the same place on a project you’re working on, here are a few things that have helped me keep pushing to the end:
1. Make a Promise to Someone You Care About
I wouldn’t have started this book if not for half a dozen friends who asked me to write it. One of them has continued asking about it every few months during this whole process. I keep her updated on my slow progress. As I’ve continued working, more friends have learned about this project. Now I have several people asking me about it. “How’s the writing coming?” If they ask in a large group of people, I’m suddenly the local celebrity who is working on a book, and now I have an extra dozen people waiting for it. Still, when it comes to writing the end, it’s because of my friend Sarah. It’s because she wants the book. Maybe she even needs it. I don’t know, but I’m writing it because I promised her I would.
2. Have Someone Else Set a Deadline for You
In my last post, I talked about the reasons to hire an editor. One of the best things that has come out of this decision for me is the deadline.
I love deadlines. I thrive on them. Rather than sending me into a swirling panic, they give me a laser-sharp focus. I know exactly what I have to do to meet this deadline. However, if I try to set my own deadlines, they don’t work. Last Fall, I told myself I would have the book finished by the end of the year. Did I? Nope. I did get the third draft done around that time, so it wasn’t all bad. My next deadline was in April. I was going to have it published. Did I? Nope. Not even close. Now, I have to have this book to my editor on October 1 to squeeze it into her busy calendar. Am I going to finish it? You bet your sorry deadline-avoiding tail I am. I wouldn’t let my editor down.
I’ve discovered there’s a trick to this: you have to be more afraid to fail the deadline than you are afraid of the book. And if you’re not afraid of the book, what in the world are you writing it for?
3. Celebrate Early
Now, this may not work for everyone, but I have this psychological thing about making stuff even. I don’t like to do things if I haven’t earned them (which explains a whole lot of my issues, but that’s a post for another day). I tend to be stingy with myself. However, I decided several months back that when I published my first book, I would get a tattoo.
That might not be what everyone else plans to do, but I had a little stick figure tattoo that I got during college that has needed to be covered up with something lovely. I had it in my head that I’d publish the book, I’d go out to celebrate, I’d have a drink or two, and I’d get some fresh ink. I’d even started asking around to find out where I might get it done locally.
Then an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime thing happened. A tattoo artist was coming to visit a friend of mine and had agreed to set up a private tattoo session. He only had a few openings, so if I wanted one, I had to get on the list, fast. This was a month or so ago. It was one of those moments, similar to the one when I booked my editor. “This is it. You have to take this opportunity.”
I got that tattoo done last Sunday. It’s beautiful. The artist was amazing. He gave me a full color rendition of the owl and feather quill my brother had designed for me. It’s a tattoo that declares I am a writer, and it’s big, and it’s colorful, and it’s not going away.
It’s also the tattoo I was supposed to get after I finished this book. So now I have this debt weighing over me, and it’s visible (and kind of itchy and peely at the moment). I have not finished the book, but I already accepted my reward. The world is out of balance. I must rectify this. I have to finish.
4. Tell Everyone You Know
This goes along with the first tip, but it’s a little different. The first one is about someone who actually wants to read my book. This tip is about all my friends and family who probably won’t read it, but love cheering me on anyway.
I hate being embarrassed. I know there are a lot of writers out there who don’t deliver. I know there are a lot of times I haven’t delivered. How many times have I told people I’m writing a novel or a screenplay? And I was! I wasn’t lying. But for the first time, when someone asks what my book is about, I can tell them. I can pitch it to them in a few sentences, answer any questions they have about it, and then accept any of their ideas or criticisms without feeling like I’m being a total poser.
This is the thought that keeps me away from lighters in the house. Because I know, thanks to the huge number of people that I’ve talked to, that this is a good idea. It’s a good book. It’s something people want. It’s something people might need. It’s from a perspective that’s a little different. And the more I talk to all of them, the more courageous I get about it.
So when I hear that voice telling me to burn it, I think about my friend, and I think about the fantastic editor I have waiting for me, and I look at that tattoo I got in advance of all of it, and I tell that voice to suck it. Because this book is going to be finished within the next week and then put out into the world where I’ll have no control over it anymore. I hope it helps people.
Really? Wouldn’t you rather play video games today?
Shut up, Resistance. You’re dumb.