Once upon a time there were three sizes of caps to place on the legs of metal chairs. The first one was too small, so I took them back to Lowe’s and got the only other size there. This one was too large. So I went to the local ACO Hardware store only to find it closed. Then I drove across town to Menards where you “save BIG money”. I was a woman on a mission. There I found caps in the in-between size required by my chairs. I wish I could say they were just right, but they required someone with stronger hands than mine to make it work.
So why my determination to get this taken care of, especially since these chairs have been missing caps for years? And what has this to do with writing?
I just wanted to be able to cross this off of my list; say it was finished and feel productive, that I had actually accomplished something. Does it ever feel like that to you? Sometimes it feels like I’m getting nowhere fast. I have so many loose ends in my life that I would like to be able to tie up neatly into a bundle and say “finished.” Problem is, life consists more of loose ends than nicely tied up bundles.
Sometimes this desire to feel like I have accomplished something pushes me to consider a manuscript “complete” before its time. So rather than do that, I look for something else that I can take care of to give me a sense of accomplishment while I continue to slog through this process we call writing.
The temptation to be “finished” is a great one for me. I love being able to cross items off my list. Then I add more items. There is a sense of fulfillment I get when I can cross items off that is lacking at times with writing. There is a lot of hurry up and waiting involved with writing. Sometimes the person I’m waiting for is myself as I need to give myself adequate time and space to be able to have some distance and a fresh outlook when I return to my writing.
I’m aware of this dynamic to the writing process and have learned not to rush through any aspect of writing, especially editing. However, sometimes the overload of unfinished projects is too much for me so I compulsively seek out other tasks that can be completed. The years of looking at those chairs and thinking I should get caps for the legs finally caught up with me so I had to finish. Better I do that with this household chore than one of my books.
Still, there arrives a time when I have to say, done, fini. All of the t’s have been crossed, the i’s dotted and my novel is ready to be sent out into the world. And as soon as I do that, I think of something else that could be done.
I’m living a life of loose ends. Will I ever be finished? What about you?