This photograph – which I took looking out over the Pacific Ocean – made me think about endings. Or maybe I took this picture because I was thinking about endings – the end of the land, the end of the ship’s journey, the end of my roll of film?
But it did get me thinking. I’m just in the midst (and when I say just I mean within a couple of hours) of finishing a big project I’ve been working on for pretty close to five months. I haven’t worked on the project (a 10 story serial – 80K which might just as well be a novel) without interruptions. I never work on a project that way. First, life gets in the way – work and family and vacations and… Second, other writing projects or deadlines get in the way. So while I was working on this project, I went through the editing process on six of those 8K stories, I wrote three short stories to deadline, I did a major rewrite of a big book for an editor who had asked for it, I wrote approximately 70 blogs.
The good news is that I didn’t get bored. Boredom is the biggest problem I have as a writer. And what I did learn while writing this serial was that I can have two or three projects on the go at the same time and I’m far more productive and creative when I do. If I get stalled (and then bored) on one thing, I move to the other (thus solving my boredom problem). It’s taken me a long time to figure this out but it’s good. It’s more than good – it’s GREAT.
The bad news is that for the last three parts of this serial, I’ve been in resistance mode. Now, I’m pretty familiar with this mode as it relates to my writing. Ever since I started writing my first short story, I’ve encountered it. Twenty or thirty stories later, I finally figured out what triggered it. I don’t like endings. I resist endings. I resist tying things up in a neat little bow – or even a not-so-neat little bow.
Star Trek, like other iconic works of art, teaches us a lot. It taught us that we could split infinitives if we were brilliant, that it’s about 50/50 whether different species can live together in peace, that Captain Kirk (aka William Shatner) will never die. What they didn’t teach – or if they did, I missed that particular movie or episode – was how to resist resistance.
Or, to put it another way – how do I resist my propensity for resistance when I’m reaching the end of a story?
I’ve tried many things, starting with giving in to the resistance, listening to the Borg long before they actually arrived in the Star Trek universe. In that stage, I might have taken three months to write the last five pages of a short story because I couldn’t force myself past the resistance. The latest is to put myself up against a deadline so tightly that I have no time for resistance. This does work, but makes me feel as if I’m somehow cheating the process, as if I’m not doing my best work because I’m rushing it.
I want to figure out a way to resist my resistance to endings. I want to finish things because I want to, not because I have to. I want to stop worrying about when the resistance will kick in, how hard I’ll have to work to get past it.
What do you resist when you’re writing?