Beginning of the end

Final approach
Final approach

You’re on the final approach—the countdown to the end—a moment you’ve been dreaming about for the last few months, or years maybe. You’ve crafted your book over countless hours, fashioned the characters, and perfectly assembled everything you want to say. And then …logjam.

In my own experience of writing and coaching both fiction and non-fiction, I’ve heard (and used) some interesting excuses—ahem, I mean reasons—why a book remains teetering on the edge of completion for what can amount to a painful amount of time.

Drawing the curtain on our play
Drawing the curtain on our play

It’s not really because our health’s a bit off right now, or we’ve had to care for someone, or been inordinately busy right at our book’s most critical moment. It sometimes goes a little deeper than that. The scary fact may be that, unconsciously, we don’t want to draw the curtain on our play.

Understandably, some writers have difficulty starting their books. In fiction we know that the first page is critical. It must have all the elements required to captivate the readers and draw them into our world as quickly as possible, but it must also capture an agent’s or publisher’s attention who hasn’t got the leisure time to allow a story to develop before they make a decision. Lots to think about?

Now you gallop over the line
Now you gallop over the line

But that pesky end game. You’ve almost done it, so what’s stopping you from galloping over the line? If you’ve never written a book before, it may be the biggest thing you’ve ever done in your life. How many hours has it taken from your personal time—probably thousands? Is anyone in your family suffering as you mooch about in your own little universe, mulling over character flaws?

We don’t just invest time in our book. We can make demands (sometimes unwittingly) on our loved ones, expend enormous quantities of emotional energy, and become so self-absorbed that nothing else is as important as ‘the book’. It’s no wonder that deep down we find it incredibly difficult to finish it and…yes…Let. It. Go.

Despite the arduous nature of book writing, if you love the writing process, you’ll begin to experience grief as the book spirals towards its end. You’ve conceived it, carried it, borne it, nurtured it lovingly, and now it’s about to be sent out into the big bad world. Naturally you’ll begin to feel a sense of loss.

Feeling a sense of loss
Feeling a sense of loss

I’ve seen clients struggle through that final barrier and then fly to the finish line, and why not? The end is already written in their mind’s eye, and probably has been for a while. Suddenly the road becomes clear. Sniffling colds disappear, the dust settles on demands of domesticity, and all those self-imposed blocks dissolve.

Oh, what a bloody marvellous feeling! And don’t worry—it’s not really the end. By the time the editing, polishing, publishing and promoting processes are done, you’ll be truly over it. Then you can write another!

What’s your stumbling block or big excuse? What can you do to leap over it?

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2 Responses

  1. Years ago, Ghosty, I got to spend a heavenly nine months writing and compiling a technical training manual for an insurance group. I was sick with Glandular Fever at the time, couldn’t do insurance appointments, so I was lucky to have this to do. That said, I found myself in creative heaven – something I had never experienced. And exactly as you say in your article “giving it up” was difficult. I didn’t want to finish it because it would leave a great big hole in my life. In the end it was only guilt that made me finish it. Guilt that I’d promised the client and not handed it over! I agree though, that by the time it’s finished, you’re pretty over it and need a break before the next one. I think this is where your book coaching can really help writers actually finish. Great blog post as always.

    As an aside too, this can really apply to anything creative. I once met a quilter who showed me a quilt she was working on. I said something in passing like “oh when you’re finished” and she, without thinking, barked back “oh I’m never going to finish it” and she hugged the half finished quilt into her body like “don’t you dare take this away from me”. She must have really loved working on that quilt. To finish it would deny her hours of enjoyment, don’t you think?

    1. Belinda, that nine months certainly sounds like creative heaven, despite your illness. I often wonder how we’d go with a huge chunk of creative time like that these days. What would we do with all that time? Like the writer in my last post, we could hone, polish, meditate and discuss at our leisure, and then wander out to prune the roses and feed the trout before going quietly batty as the peace and tranquility of our lives crushes in.

      You’re right, of course. Failing to finish extends across all endeavours – even business. How many of your clients do you see dithering and doddering rather than stepping across the finish line? After hundreds of hours work too.

      Now where’s that model aeroplane I started when I was six?

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