To clarify, what I’m doing here seems like writing. Well, maybe not. The first sentence in this paragraph falls flat to my ear. But I’m not going to fret about it because I want to get to my point. I do take care in writing these blog entries; that is, I do revise. I sure hope someone has noticed. But the only time I can stroll around and feel as if I’ve written that day is when I’ve labored over my fiction. I can write three chapters of a textbook, seven blog entries, an extended journal entry, a detailed grocery list, but in my mind, none of that quite counts.
So instead of updating this blog, I’ve been working on a novel. And I’m proud to say, I’m done. The book took far too long to complete, interrupted by bouts of dejectedness and personal issues, but I was haunted by something Frederik Pohl once said to an audience at Writers Week: Finish what you start. Simple advice that turns out to be quite profound.
Finishing a novel includes many satisfactions, not the least of which is an end to the clutter of notes one keeps throughout the process. I had a stack of papers of different sizes about a foot high, amazed as I slowly pored through the pile by how many of the barely legible scratches found their way into the book. I even recall where I wrote many of the notes, usually during long walks around my neighborhood or while reading—and I recall my excitement. To stop midstride or mid-page to jot down an idea, c’mon, it must have been good. And the dumb ideas? The ones I eventually discarded? I’m fond of those too.
It’s not so much that my desk got cleaned, if that’s what you’re taking away from this. It’s the realization that all this chaos could be shaped into some kind of meaningful whole. Life doesn’t offer too many of these moments. Maybe that’s why I write: to sustain the illusion that the mess of working and failing and learning and loving means something in the end.
Now I have to pursue the business side of the equation. While the writing demands complete immersion, though you do have to lose yourself to a degree to create an imaginary world, the business side requires a kind of callousness. You have to put aside the personal, the hurt of rejection, and plow ahead with stupid persistence and hope.