Friday, March 13, 2009

You Might Be a Writer If...

What does it mean to finish a book? Finite. Das Ende. Basta. Finish.

I've been thinking about that a lot. I just finished a major round of revisions on my WIP, and tomorrow, I finish my 30s. Endings have been up front and personal this week. I've decided, after much contemplation and sleepless nights pulling out my hair as I sweat over revisions - only to realize how much grey has snuck in at the end of my 30s - what "to finish" means depeneds very much on perspective.

Take high school for instance, finishing a book then had soooooooooo many diverse and colorful meanings. If it was Dickens, it meant finally putting myself out of my own misery and buying the Cliff Notes. Anna Karenina - longer than any stint in Purgatory should ever be - it meant realizing I was still reading and would never get the paper I had to write done before the end of the semester if I kept reading, thus coming to a screeching halt about 250 pages from the end, and - if you're reading this Ms. Yadon, I apologize but I was desperate - renting the movie. For Jane Austen, however, finishing meant reading everything the original queen of chic lit novel ever wrote from front to back, twice.

Ah, but for an author?

You might be a writer if, you don't finish books, you abandon them.

I'd love to take credit for coming up with that witty expression of a deeper truth, but it's been around longer than me, way longer. And I don't want to start plagiarizing now. That's a whole different blog. So, it is with a low nod and bow that I give credit to the great Oscar Wilde. It was he who said: "No book is ever finished. It is simply abandoned."

I did not get that as a reader. I finished books, in some way. I either read them to the end, which I did in 99% of all cases. There really are only a handful I've never read cover-to-cover. Two are mentioned above. The other one was Umberto Eco's The Island of the Day Before. There, I've outed myself as a book nerd. And through all of them, read or only partly read, I never got the impression I was abandoning anything.

Then I became a writer and Wilde's witticism took on a whole new meaning. My characters come to life for me. They follow me around. They talk to me in the car. I dream about the places I'm writing about. As I said last week, I have imaginary friends. As the creator of them all, it's hard to let them go when the story is over. Thank God for revisions!

I can stay in a story almost forever if for no other reason than revisions.

It wasn't until I completed Dragon Wishes, though, that I understood the whole abandonment issue Wilde was getting at. My books are like my children. I brought them to life, I fostered them, I made them into who they are. How can I ever let them go? With Dragon Wishes, though, I learned that there comes a point at which I am revising not to make better but just to revise, to stay in the story. That's when I know the time has come. The cord must be severed. The book let loose. Abandoned to its own fate.

The ameliorative? Plunging into another story, a new adventure.

It's the same with this decade. I'm saying goodbye to today. My 30s were good, but they've told their story. My 40s, however, they're a blank slate, a new adventure, luring me: "listen: there's a hell of a good universe next door: let's go."

I think I'll take the plunge.


Christina Farley said...

Love the title of your book! I understand what you mean by pushing through those revisions. Not easy! But worth it.

Stacy Nyikos said...

Yeah, it is. Still, why is it that anything that's worth something have to be so hard, though?

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

That's a great way to put it--abandoned. I've never heard it put like that before and it fits the concept perfectly!

Stacy Nyikos said...

I couldn't agree more!

D.A. Riser said...

Hey Stacy,
Thanks for pointing me toward the blog. I'm not sure what was going amiss with me and the website but blogger is much easier.

I'll add this RSS to my google reader.