First the good news: I have reached the point where I can finally see the end of the first book of the bloody ginormous writing project I’ve been working on for years. The knowledge that I am close to some sort of an end of book one (of what hopefully won’t be more than a two book story) fills me with a great deal of pride, a sense of accomplishment and so on…
Now for the bad news: It’s also causing me to worry. For various reasons. Partly the fact that, as the old saying has it, the first 90% of the work of a major project takes 90% of the time, and the last 10% also takes 90% of the time. Because I’m a relatively slow writer and I still have a pretty long way to go. Because at some point I’m going to have to finish the thing and subject it to the opinions of others (my friends and family like it, of course, but they’re required by law to like anything I write…)
What does this mean? I think it points to a fact that is probably worth remembering every now and again when reading: the person behind that work of fiction you’re reading may be slightly insane.
This is sort of a joke and it sort of isn’t. For example I’m pretty sure that I don’t suffer from any of your more esoteric forms of lunacy: no psychosis, no over the top dementia, I don’t smell blue or see sounds or feel flavors. But even so I’m fairly certain that I’m not quite normal, and a lot of the ways in which I am not normal are exemplified in my writing. Simply put writing a novel is sort of like subjecting yourself to a 100,000 word jigsaw puzzle, where the picture hasn’t been painted on the pieces, and in fact the pieces don’t even have the connecting nooks and crannies yet. Rational, sensible utility maximizing humans presented with such a prospect might be forgiven for deciding to go out and do something else with their time. There are certainly moments when I throw up my hands and decide to go and do something else, something easier for a while. And yet I keep coming back, and judging from all the books on Amazon lots of other people do as well.
Why? Why keep wrestling? Yes there’s always that dream in the back of your head of being a best-selling author or winning a Pulitzer or something, but the reality is that I’m probably never going to make enough writing to justify the time spent on a purely financial level. Instead I’d say that I do it because I enjoy it––except that quite a bit of the time my writing projects drive me crazy. Even beyond the massive undefined puzzle factor mentioned above, writing is problematic because there is no objective standard of good writing––what one person likes someone else may hate. Ironically this means that on top of everything else writing is not only hard, but you also do it without any certainty that you’re doing it right.
So in short, it’s tough, it doesn’t pay well, it drives me crazy… But I still do it anyway. Possibly because I have a screw loose. I do think though that there is something buried within human nature that drives us to do things that don’t quite make sense and that we can’t totally rationalize, maybe because we think that ultimately something great just might happen and we want to see what that is. I suspect that that is at least part of the driving force, both for writers and also for civilization.
Or maybe this is just me trying to work through my latest bout of writers block.