I love writing.
My favourite part of novel writing is sinking my teeth into the first few pages. I love introducing the main character, assigning them their quirky traits and considering the endless plotline possibilities. It’s like opening brand-new school supplies on the first day of school and smelling those fresh smelly marker smells.
But inevitably, just as those fresh smelly marker smells become less fresh smelling, so too does my enthusiasm for my novel. And this is how I find myself at age 41, with 4 or 5 unfinished manuscripts I visit sometimes, in their google drive homes, taking up more space in my mind than they do on the drive.
The one that got away.
And though it is difficult to talk about, there is one novel I think of often. One that I worked on for months, that I accidentally and very permanently deleted from the google drive to make space for my daughter’s presentation entitled “Poop Daddy” which included a custom image she designed which is too gross to describe, even for me. You can hear more on this one in my recent podcast episode, Mothers-In-Law.
Recently I revisited a novel I started months ago. I found myself in that all too familiar territory of struggling to re-immerse myself into the story. But in my quest to become a more enlightened person, I spent some time reflecting on why I find finishing what I started when it comes to novel writing so challenging.
We live in an age of instant gratification.
Want to hear a song? Ask Alexa. Want to stream the next episode? Press next episode. Want to ask your boomer parent a simple yes/no question? Send them a text. JK, they’re just going to call you anyways and leave multiple messages, all the while holding their answer hostage.
Social media plays into this as well. Write something. Post something. Get likes. Repeat.
The long game.
With novel writing, you’re playing the long game. It can take years to finish a novel, and my brain throws so many barriers at me during the writing process:
- Do I really know where I’m going with this?
- Will anybody even read it when it is finally finished?
- Would this ever get published?
- Do I even like this story enough to persevere?
- Would my time be better spent on my next idea?
And this is how I end up moving on to writing my next book having never finished the previous one.
Writing requires discipline and focus (she writes while sipping the PM coffee she promised to quit and desperately trying to remember where she was headed with this). These days, writing anything beyond a 280-character social media post feels like an insurmountable challenge.
I fantasize about spending a year in a sleepy beach town and writing the next great Canadian novel. But this feels impossible with young kids, a career, a mortgage and other adult responsibilities. Plus, how horribly cliché.
I don’t know if I will ever finish what I’ve started, and I’d like to be ok with that and focus on the journey rather than the destination. But as I hear myself encouraging my kids to finish what they start, I know what I need to do. One day. Not today though, because I just came up with a great new idea for a book.