Volumes have been written cataloguing the fears that block writers from finishing their novels.
For me, it's been three years that I’ve been working on and around a memoir, the one great idea I have for a novel-length book, that beacon of success for a writer hoping to prove herself.
One day last month I was standing in the kitchen of a writing group friend I hadn’t seen in a long time. “I’ve started working on the memoir again,” I told her, remembering the dusty art room in the community center stocked with pottery wheels and blocks of clay where our group used to meet.
Yes, some books take many years to evolve, and yes sometimes we have to work through the psychological issues in the story before we can see the material clearly, but I knew there was something else in the way.
“I’m afraid of what will happen when it’s finished,” I told her. Because if this is my one great idea, there’ll be nothing left when it’s over. I’ll be a one-hit wonder. A lucky fool who tapped a spring before it went dry.
My friend told me she reads a lot of memoirs and that she’d love to read mine, and as we talked of the pandemic and her bout with cancer and life and work, I could see more clearly that this book is just a story. One story in the endless stream of stories that people make every day. It will probably be neither exceptional nor awful. It won’t prove my worth or get me kicked out.
“I’ve put so much pressure on this one book,” I told her, “that it’s probably holding in all the other things I could be doing and writing and creating.”
By thinking I am somehow separate from the unlimited, abundant, multi-faceted creativity of the universe, I have limited my own self.
But what if I believed the opposite? What if I believed that it’s natural and normal to be infinitely creative, and that finishing this project is not the end but the beginning?
What if the precious thing we’re holding onto is not our one gift, but the lid, sealing a container of ideas just waiting to be be released?