How I’m Not Finishing a Book.

There are a million and one books out there – perhaps a million and two – about how to write a book. They’re all full of advice, and some are good – most are horrid – and it seems to me that given my own situation, it’s appropriate to write about how not to finish writing a book.

It’s the death of a thousand paper cuts in a digital age. 

Like all people who call themselves ‘writers’, when asked about whether I’m writing a book or not, I say, ‘yes’. Then it gets more complicated. People want to know what it’s about, people want to know what sort of writing you do, what you’ve published before, and so on and so forth.

I’ve come up with, “When you read it, you’ll understand it”, and found that depressingly untrue as I evaluate people who ask the question.

They may never understand.

Then you have all these writing contests, where people talk about how much they have written in a day, which is akin to IBM’s old and abandoned metric for computer programming – Single Lines of Code (SLOC).

What does it mean that you wrote 3,000 words today? I could write a dictionary and make that claim. Personally, I’d prefer writing a thesaurus.

On top of this, at last count there seemed to be approximately a zillion resources on publishing the book you haven’t finished, which forms it’s own distraction. Will I publish here? There?

And who is my audience? And what are critics saying about books like this? Will anyone read this? Is it worth it? Let me surf the Internet for a while.

Worse, books like ’50 Shades of Idiot’ pop up on the radar, and you realize how fickle even women are – on one side, rampaging feminists rooting out every penis they can find, on the other, books about toxic and abusive relationships for women are being bought by women. Oh, the market, so fickle, so very… human. And what if you mention BDSM relationships? Why is that poorly written series of books so popular with women? Is it because who should be the villain is rich?

Suddenly, you become acutely aware of how inconvenient potential readers can be. Again, like software engineering, life would be easier without users.

You still write, of course, but these things keep eclipsing the muse with the nagging doubts. You keep reading, of course, because reading is good for you for many reasons, not the least of which being you are digesting what you will eventually cough up over your keyboard with the juices of your life intermingled. And when that visual hits you, you sit there staring at the ceiling just long enough to really make the nagging voices their own muse.

And then you write this.

Oh, you made it this far? You poor soul.

And then I start thinking back to why I started writing, about the earliest of muses.

For me, it was hiding in a library in secondary school when the Physics class I got kicked out of was in session (I did very well in Physics because of that). Hidden within the tomes of books – so many books for a young mind – sat J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” Trilogy. 

I’d already devoured ‘The Hobbit’. My life pretty much sucked, so escapism was a plus. And I began reading the story that Tolkien had woven together – not written, woven. The world was alive in my young mind, the details sometimes as dense as Butterbur himself.

And then, there, leaned between the bookshelves of a school library, with a wary eye out for authority figures, my mind soaked itself in a new world and was so happy that it said, “I want to be able to do this!”

Then at home, mining things to read from my father’s sacred collections of books — mainly novels — I found between the engineering texts a book of engineering specifications of the U.S.S. Enterprise, 1701. Someone had written a book on how the ship worked, including ‘Desitter Space’ for Warp drives. I studied it, learning nothing of practical use, but it was a new world.

And then my mind roved back to the magic of seeing Star Wars and it’s characters, and how R2D2 captured my imagination – but my mother was in love with C3PO and thought, mistakenly, that I liked C3PO – not realizing I always laughed at C3PO and with R2D2, the clearly more intelligent robot who had communication issues that I completely understood.

Clearly I understood. My mother bought me C3PO as a gift and didn’t understand why I dismembered it. It ends up I was also prescient. 

And with all of that flooding back into me, about what made me passionate about worlds that made sense as opposed to the one I was born into – there was a reason I kicked and screamed on entrance that I did not know – the world falls away to the page, the idiots capitalizing on the death of Stan Lee fade into the background, and the writing can continue.


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