|The few, the proud, the unfinished. Well, some of them.|
I'm not exactly proud of this. I mean, does a body of work count as a body of work if none of the work has a whole body?
Once, when I was a bookseller, I got to hang out for an afternoon with Tom Piazza. He's such a cool, friendly guy, and he has a good eye--or good ears. We were chatting while he was signing his books and he looked up to me and said, "You're a writer, aren't you?"
"Well, sort of," I said. "I don't know if I'm a writer, but I write."
He nodded. "I could tell by the way you talk."
I wasn't quite sure what he meant by that, but it made me even more self-conscious than I already was--which is saying a lot. (I am more notoriously self-conscious than I am notoriously finish-phobic.)
He went on to ask me about my work. I described a couple of pieces to him and he seemed interested. "You should get them published. Are you going to try?" he asked.
|Hello, ground. I'll get down there eventually. Somehow.|
He nodded again and gave me a little grin. "Ah, I know your type. You're afraid. You're afraid to finish."
I didn't deny it. I wanted to, but he was right. "Do you know the cure?" I asked.
"I've been there," he said and shook his head. "There's only one thing to do. You've got to land the plane. It doesn't matter if you crash it or ease it down, but you've got to get it on the ground somehow. You can worry about how you got there later. All that matters is that you finally write 'The End'."
Since that day, I've thought a lot about what he said. The plane analogy made a lot of sense to me. I am afraid of crashing the plane. If I get to the end of a work and it doesn't feel like I thought it would (and it rarely does, even by midway), am I missing out on something else? Did I make a wrong turn? Did I take something pristine with real potential out of its wrapper and squish it up with my dirty hands and destroy it?
Somewhere along the line, I got the idea that I didn't have the right to manipulate my own ideas. Some of them are good ideas, and if I put my grubby little hands on them too much, I'll mess them up and there won't be anything good left of them. If only these ideas had been born to someone who already knew how to fly, someone who could get them on the ground safely and with a dash of style.
But they're mine. I am the only one who sees them whole. I'm the only chance they have of existing as they came to me and if I turn them down, they will fade away unknown and unloved. I owe them more than that. I have to try. Besides, if I can't crash my own planes in my own runway, how can I ever hope to learn to land properly?
So, I'm trying. I'm trying and trying. When I start to catch myself burning out on one project, I pull out another one and tack a few more words on that one. I'm making my way toward the finish line inch by inch. It may take me eight and a half years to make it down the aisle, but I'm going to get there with every one of these projects and we're going to make it official.
|Someone beat us to it.|
Do whatever you need to do to get there. Take all the time you need, but don't ever forget that every plane has to land one way or another. Give yourself a chance to land it right before you run out of gas and fall out of the sky. Your work is your work and nobody can do it better than you. Write it the way it was meant to be written--in the way that only you can write it.