I’m ready to finish. I want this. Almost nine years working on my novel, and part of me is saying, This has to end.
Sometimes I’m convinced that I’m completely incompetent. I will never finish. It will never be good enough.
Sometimes I wonder if I’m sabotaging my own process so that I never have to share my novel with anyone else. A way to protect myself from criticism and meanness.
Sometimes I think I’m there. I’ve got it. When I show my novel to the next person, or submit it to the next contest, whoever sees it will pick it out of the thousands of other manuscripts and recognize it for the masterpiece that it is. I’ll be on my way.
But I don’t really believe any of these extremes. I’m not about to sabotage years of work. I’ve dealt with criticism before. I can handle it. And I’ve put my work out there enough to know that I’m no special snowflake. My work is strong in some ways, and weak in others. I don’t always know what those are, but I know it’s not perfect. I also know it at least has potential.
Writing a novel is like a race with many, many laps. The clincher is that when you start, you don’t know how many laps there will be. Every time you come around to the finish line, you could potentially see that white flag, indicating that you’re on your last lap.
Sometimes I’m convinced that I’m almost there, but when I approach the finish line, there is no flag in sight. This happened to me when I attended a writing retreat, secretly hoping for a stamp of approval (even though I knew I shouldn’t) or at least only light criticism. Instead, I discovered that I had to rethink the entire structure of my novel. Ouch. I retired hopes of seeing the white flag any time soon.
I keep circling the track, piling on more and more laps. It can be tempting at times to just stop. I will say, it totally makes sense to take a break once in a while. Sometimes it even makes sense to walk away. Write another book. Forget writing altogether.
But that’s not where I am. I’m still writing, still sticking with this book. The voice in my head that’s impatient to finish may be getting louder, but I’m listening to another voice, a deeper one that knows what this book needs. Yes to finishing. No to impatience.
I may not know how many laps I need to get to the end, but I know there are far fewer laps left to go than when I started. For now, just staying in the race is a win.
Hope you’re having fun running your race, whatever it is!