Am I the only one on Earth who either never finishes writing story drafts or abandons finished drafts rather than do the necessary revision work, which amounts to the same thing in the end? By “necessary” I mean ten, twenty, fifty drafts before it’s worthy of submission to a publisher. Why is this so? I think it’s worth exploring a little.
Maybe I don’t take myself seriously enough as a writer. I let life get in the way. Or maybe I lack the confidence required to spill my guts out onto the page to be autopsied.
Maybe it’s not confidence that I lack. Maybe it’s a congenital inability to stay with anything long enough to see where it leads, and by leads I mean “to its inevitable conclusion.” My mind flits from one thought to the next and pretty soon I’m a thousand miles away from my original intention. So now my hard drive is bulging with unfinished stories.
Maybe it’s it’s not distraction, maybe it’s old fashioned laziness. When things don’t fall into place immediately a little voice pours in that says Fail. Abort! Abort! And my answer is immediately Okay! Okay! It’s too difficult to ask a ton of questions to find out what could happen next or what if this or that happened. Easier to just open a new file and start a new story. Or better yet, step away from the keyboard and go do something that’s more fun and rewarding.
Maybe it’s not laziness but boredom, which is worse. I asked some guy once why I could never seem to finish writing a story and he replied that maybe I just didn’t have anything to say. And darling, he said, if you don’t have anything to say, it doesn’t matter how clever you are, you probably shouldn’t be writing. Thanks a lot. Maybe, I thought riddled with despair, writing is something I only told myself I want to do, but I don’t really want to write, I just want to be a writer (there’s a difference, you know).
Maybe it’s not boredom at all but fear. Maybe I’m afraid to write to the end because that means I have to let go of it. It means the fun craziness is over. Now it’s time to go back and hack away the underbrush or take the story into new places I didn’t plan on going, do some heavy lifting, some serious thinking, make some unforeseen connections, kill off a few characters, you know? Maybe endings (and revisions), like mortality, are too scary to contemplate. You’ve heard of “The Neverending Story,” right? A story without an end? Maybe the novelist thought that never ending the thing was the best ending. I mean metaphysically speaking, nothing really ends, it just changes form, right?
Maybe it’s not fear. Maybe I just never bonded with my mother enough to know who I am, and when you don’t know who you are how can you write with an authorial voice? And if you don’t own an authorial voice you can easily get lost in the weeds, right? I’m going with this one. It’s as good an excuse as any.
Whatever it is, it’s the only thing that distinguishes me from prolific published writers.
Now, which of all those stories on my hard drive can I resurrect and sort to see if I can fall in love with it, shaping and reshaping, connecting and re-connecting, shutting out the noises, the voices, the distractions, and all those things the world wants from me? Somewhere inside it, sooner or later, I come to the part where I finally face myself, all my selves, and my own infinite mind and my humanity with all of its flaws and dreams and mysteries. That’s the part that I think will make it all worthwhile.