15K left. Or so. Maybe. Could be 20, or 10, or 30, for all I know. Endings are easier for me in that I know, more or less, what’s going to happen, and I have, more or less, all the tools I need to take myself there: they’re harder for me because all the work I’ve put in so far is put to the test, and every word counts.
Well. Every word counts anyway; I know that. But this 10-15-20-30-whateverK feels like tiptoeing through a minefield. They’re all my mines, but some of them I don’t remember putting there, and I only want a select few to actually blow up, on my terms, and preferably not when I’m standing near them. Controlled demolition vs. oh-crap-did-you-hear-that? demolition.
(Okay, no more violent metaphors. Sorry. I’m still working on coffee #1.)
Anyway. I read this fabulous interview yesterday –the amazing and witty Hope101’s interview of Laura Kinsale, if you’re interested (and you should be, because it was a really, really great interview)– and one of Ms. Kinsale’s statements struck me:
“What I’ve found is that if I do force myself to write when the pitcher is empty, I go down blind alleys that just get harder and harder to push ahead. Then I have to go back to where it was “working” and start over there. There will always be some “good parts” in the blind alley that I don’t want to let go of, which makes it even harder to start over. Overall not very pleasant or productive. So what seems to work best for me is not to force myself to turn out pages on a schedule, but to keep the book and characters in my mind, to read other books, and listen for that little bell to ring that gives me a sentence or a scene I can start with and keep going.”
(It’s on page two, if you want to go hunting for it)
I do this All. The. Time.
We’re writers. We want to get published. For those of us messing around in particular genres –SF/F, for example, which is definitely where I fall– the ability to produce, and produce regularly, is a not-inconsiderable talent. Even unpublished and contractless, that pressure is still there unless you’ve done little to no research at all about this industry (or, I suppose, unless you’re a much more stable and balanced person than I am). You’ve probably come across at least a few blogs, or posts, or whatever, that paint the picture of a writer in the middle of one novel, editing another, and reviewing galleys on a third.
And if you’re anything like me your first thought upon reading an account of something like that was not Awesooooome! *fistpump*, but Sweet Cartwheeling Jesus, when do they sleep?
No, it’s not always like that (or, I hope, even often like that). But if you’re anything like me, you feel that pressure even though it’s not always like that, and even though you don’t yet have any contractual obligation to write, say, a book a year. I see numbers and scenarios like the above; I know a lot of writers who do, in fact, write that fast or faster; and I worry. Because I just don’t write that fast. Or, not as fast as I feel like I should. I can do a book a year, but it does in fact take the whole year. And I sit here, 20K-or-whatever from THE END, stressing myself out because I’m not going as fast as I think I should be. And you know, stress can be useful and productive, but as far as its influence on an occasionally delicate creative process? –well, not so much. Especially here, approaching THE END, where I’m already neurotic enough to fund the college educations of several psychologists’ children.
So the above-quoted statement is a helpful reminder for me: I’m not racing a clock. And pushing myself when maybe I really need to take a night off, or even (gulp) a week off, probably isn’t going to give me anything I’m actually going to want to keep.
It’s important to me to keep in mind that this is a job, or at least that if I want to get paid for it I’d be wise to treat it like one… but I often forget that it’s equally important to let my brain (and my fingers) have some time off to recharge.