As I write this, I’m about three hours away from hitting the “publish” button to get the first print proof for my first book. It’s a short book of flash fiction stories, and while I’m proud of it, it’s really a way to get my feet wet in the world of authorship and self publishing. I’ve got a novel currently at the revision stage, and am thinking of that as the “main event.”
I’ve gone through all the self-doubt, second-guessing and “what does it all mean” phases that I expected to while writing, but recently I ran into a wall I didn’t see coming while getting this book of short short stories ready for the world.
There was a very real, very strong internal resistance I found myself facing that was completely unexpected.
Basically, I’m finding myself standing squarely in my own way.
I’ve started a lot of works in my life, but only recently turned a corner and found the guts to actually start to finish them. I was happy — overjoyed, in fact — to be able to type “The End” on not one but four new works in 2015. This is it, I thought. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and whatever internal permission I had been looking for had finally showed up. Add in the fact that self-publishing has now matured into a workable technology, and those dreams that I’ve been holding on to for so long could start to come true. It could be real.
I’m in my 40s, and it makes me mad to think of all the time I’ve wasted being afraid of… what, exactly? I’ve gone from a guy who wants to write (and “wants” come cheap), to someone who is actually finishing things. I felt like I had graduated to the next level.
First, though, comes the three volumes of flash fiction. They’re written. That part is over. Now comes the fine tuning. Now comes the finishing touches.
Now comes the internal resistance.
I’m a graphic designer, as well, so I designed my own cover. Which image should I use? How big should the image be? Tilted? Tilted too much? Does it compete with the background? Should I use another background? Do I really like that image for the cover? Maybe I’ll start again.
The back cover blurb was a killer to complete. Fine tuning. Second guessing. I’ve now written entire books; why is this little paragraph making me feel subliterate?
The dedication? I knew it was going to be to my wife, but what should I say? What’s special enough? Too funny? Too serious? Too “Hallmark-y”?
I’ve fooled with the last 2 percent of this book for the past two weeks, until I finally had to come to grips with the reasons why I’ve been dragging my feet: A dream threatening to become real drags reality along with it.
These books have been living in my head for months (and, in some cases, years). They’ve been in this perfect state of potentiality. Any flaw could be fixed — later. There’s still time to improve. There’s still time to come up with the perfect cover. There’s always time — unless, of course, you actually want to send it out into the world. That’s when it becomes real.
And, suddenly, it’s as good as it’s going to get. It’s not as perfect as it has been in my mind. The real world — and my own limitations — have robbed it of that. What if people don’t like it? What if I don’t like it when I see it in print? Couldn’t I have made it better, somehow?
Maybe, with just a little more tweaking….
I’ve been a newspaper reporter, and one of the things you learn — very quickly — is that there comes a time when stories have got to go out into the world. The front page is not going out with a hole you can fill in after the fact when you get everything perfect. You do your best, you cover your bases, you make it sing the best you can, and then you have to let it go.
The deadline has weight and meaning; it doesn’t care that you’re afraid. Put down your pencils; time’s up.
So, in the interest of actually getting something done, I decided to use the power of the deadline. I gave myself this weekend — today, in fact — to get it out the door. Is it perfect? Oh, God, no. Is it the best I can do here and now? I do believe so. I’ll learn from this. I’ll see with my own eyes what works and what could be better.
It’s been said that the only way a writer improves is by actually finishing things. Today, I’m actually gonna finish something. It feels damn good. It also is scary as hell.
And that’s okay.