Shaun Levin

Almost There: Joy and Fear

In Writing on February 27, 2018 at 3:32 pm

There’s a book I’ve almost finished but I’m doing everthing I can to avoid it. The manuscript is on my desk. I know exactly what I need to do. The ending needs to be written. It’s a happy ending after a lot of turmoil and loss and violence. Something good happens at the end and I know exactly what it is, and most of it is written already. If I sit down, it’ll be done in 3-4 hours. It really will. All I need to do is sit there with the mansucript and with my keyboard and go paragraph by paragraph and write down the story as it happens.

I know what happens.

Is it fear? The fear of the completed project. The fear of having to put the book out into the world. The fear of saying okay this is what I’ve been working on for the past 2, 3, 6 years, do you like it? But those feel like the cliched answers. It’s not fear. It’s something else. It’s the power of fiction, I think. The overwhelmeing rush you get when you create a scene that is completely fiction, a creation of your mind, a fantasy you have of love and joy and meeting The One. At the end of the book he meets The One. The story feels so real, the happiness is so real, and I guess because it’s at the end of the book there’s no room for negativity to snake its way in.

Maybe the fear is joy. It’s not fear, it’s joy. Me and joy. We have a complicated relaionship. I have always resisted the endings of projects. When I was part of a professional supervision group, they bribed me with chocolate cake as an incentive to finish my first book. They didn’t actually bribe me, I made them promise to buy me the cake if I finished the book. Now I’ve bought myself a sofa, so I owe it to whoever – me! – to finish the book. The sofa must be earned. The sofa is a gift for finishing the book.

It’s not joy, either. Not fear, not fear of joy. What do you do with a book that is done? You look after it. You find it a home, you do your best to make sure people like it, you find people to like it, you show it to people, you say nice things about it, big it up, feel proud of it, keep your doubts to yourself, make sure it gets the best care possible. If you finish a book, your capacity for support is tested. How well do you care for your books? Some people care for their books very well. Some people will do anything for their books. Some people are embarrassed by/for people who’ll do anything for their books.

The truth is that I’m not sure why I’ll do anything to avoid finishing the book. How about I shut up now and go finish it. A few more pages and I’ll be ready. See you on the other side.

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