My mom has always told me that “the greatest effort of an endeavor is felt closest to its completion.” We refer to that as “the unproven but absolutely truthful concept of physics that not enough people know about.”
As I near the completion of my first novel, I think I finally fully understand what that concept really means. I love writing. I do. And I love the story I’m writing. I have been working on it every single day since November of this year, working around school and the five million extracurriculars I seem to have involved myself in. I think about the story while I am running. I hit mile three, and my thoughts are not with my feet and the ground, or with my labored breath. Instead, they are with my characters and the desperate situations they have been thrust into. I’m probably obsessive. And that’s the thing: I don’t care. I would give anything to be able to write all day long. My hand cramps up when I am writing in the middle of the night, and I am usually terribly annoyed—not because my hand hurts, but because my body is betraying my story, preventing the next words from falling onto the page.
For me, writing is not a problem or an assignment. It is a joy.
Since seventh grade, I have been carrying around leatherbound notebooks, with the one exception of the eco-friendly cardboard-bound one that I used for a few months this year. I never start a new notebook until I have filled the last one. There are countless spiral-bound or composition books sitting around my house that have only the first few pages covered with scattered words, and those pages hurt to look at. I like knowing that I have seen an effort all the way to its end. Or, since I tend to pick up new notebooks the same day as I fill the last ones, its continuation.
Continuation is the key.
My novel is coming to a close, and it may be the end of my writing about these characters in this world. I will spend a while editing it and sending it out to people who I think would give me worthwhile feedback, people whose opinions I respect. But I will be finished with the creation. And I simply cannot wrap my mind entirely around that. And it may be a direct result of that, or possibly an indirect one, that I am finding it nigh on impossible to finish this book.
It is the first story longer than twenty pages that I have ever come this close to the ending. I know exactly how the story is supposed to resolve itself. I know exactly what happens to whom. And I can’t write it. I am finding excuses, procrastinations around every corner. I am setting arbitrary deadlines and then failing to meet them. I have two chapters left, after writing more than three hundred and fifty pages, and I cannot write them. It’s heartbreaking.
Some people believe that conceptualizing the characters and the plot and the setting is the most difficult part of writing stories. Some people read books and the characters and the plot and the setting are what they remember, as opposed to specific lines. For me, the whole book is what matters, but certain parts stick more than others. For me, specific lines and fragments of sentences leap out and embed themselves in my brain. Often, it is the first sentence. But the most profound of the lines that stay with me are usually the final ones. Perhaps I am setting an impossible standard for myself. Perhaps I am the only one who cares about writing a final line so memorable that it stays. Perhaps I am the only one who even cares about reading final lines that remain in my head every time I think the author’s name. But I do care, and I care an awful lot. I care so much that it is blocking me from writing out the last tiny portion of this novel for fear that it will not be good enough.
I have spent so much time on this effort that I must see it through. I love my story too much to not finish it, whether anyone else will actually like it or not. I will finish it. But I am close enough to its completion that doing so is incredibly difficult. A small part of me whispers nasty doubts to the rest of me, and while that has been going on for the entirety of this project, I have always ignored it. But now, a larger part of me wants to give in and not finish. I won’t give in, and this novel will become an actuality, on pages that are physical and not digital. But the ending feels like the most important part, and the most impossible