Tuesday, February 23, 2010


The line between being an artist and being mentally unbalanced is sometimes blurry.  I'm told that if you hear voices and talk back to them, you are schizophrenic; but if you hear voices and write down what they tell you, you are a writer.  

Likewise, if you fret and obsess over every detail and cannot move on if even one small thing is wrong... well, then you're still a writer. 

I only mention this because yesterday I tore my hands away from the keyboard and decided that my book was 'finished'.  Ever since, I've been fighting the urge to break it open and fix Just One More Thing.  Because who am I kidding?  It's not finished!  I can change this, and tweak that and...



And I feel a deep and abiding kinship with George Lucas right now.  His deep need to go back and futz with a film that was considered 'finished' thirty years ago is perfectly understandable... and just as bad an idea as me re-opening that document file to add the scene I just thought of.

"Finished" is a myth.  In the mind of a creator, it's never finished.  Stories, once they enter our minds, evolve and transform and grow.  An idea joins another idea and they become a book.  But those ideas don't stop mutating and growing just because I've started pinning them to a page.  At some point in their evolution we just have to close the file and call it good.  Because if you don't cut it off at some point, it will never be done and before you know it, you're Grady Tripp, wandering the streets of your own private Pittsburgh with a novel that runs to several cases of paper.

You can always revisit a theme or a character or an idea at another point.  Jot it down and let it start evolving its own story on a nice blank page where it has plenty of room to romp and play with all the other ideas I didn't use this tiime.

So my novel is gloriously and definitively unfinished.  At least until some editor gets hold of it.  Such is the life of a novel.  

To commemorate the occasion I'm going to seal it in a box and ship it off to an interested agent and get on with the next project.  Because if you are forever rehashing the old, you'll never really do anything new.  Even if you are George Lucas (are you listening to me George?) you have to let go.

Maybe I just need therapy but for now, I'll settle for another cup of coffee.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this excellent, well-written post. I can certainly identify with obsessive, perfectionistic tendencies. Not that the end results of my obsessing are ever perfect. I just worry and hope that they are. :) Great insights. It was nice of you to join my blog. I'm sure it will be beneficial for me to follow yours.


Pages to Type is a blog about books, writing and literary culture (with the occasional digression into coffee and the care and feeding of giant robots).