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On Finishing My Book

June 27, 2011

About two weeks ago, I submitted the last bit of work for a six-month-long stint doing freelance work for a company I greatly admire. (Now I have the time to write about that company, coming soon.) I also received thorough and encouraging feedback on my manuscript from a beloved guide. (Now I have the time to write about that, too, also coming soon.) With a bit of time in between income-earning positions, and only a half-mile-long list of things to take care of rather than the three-quarter-mile-long list that I usually and delightfully nurture, I can finish my book.

And I have. Mostly.

I have a little bit left to write in Chapter 20. Instead of writing it, I’ve begun sending queries to indie presses. I’ve caught up on blog reading and surfed my way into three-year-old controversies about racism and sexism and appropriation of imagery for ironic statements. I’ve started picking up fresh fruits and vegetables from my first-ever CSA and have earnestly learned what to cook with garlic scapes. I’ve viewed every picture I can find from the Pride parade. I’ve visited friends in Pennsylvania and helped my mother with yard work and witnessed my sister kick butt at pool. I’ve watched True Blood Season 3.

It gets worse. Instead of writing the little bit of Chapter 20, I’ve removed my books from my vertical nonfiction shelf, lined them up on the windowsill, rearranged them by height, and re-shelved them in a seamless tower. I’ve collected all the empty jars and medicine bottles that I keep in our apartment for repurposing and actually repurposed them: one for loose buttons, another for wall hooks, a third for travel-sized facial wash. A lidless one for Q-tips. A nice big one for Jolly Ranchers.

I’ve helped J pick out new jeans. I’ve gloomed my way through Father’s Day. I’ve talked at length with several loved ones in crisis, and talked at length with J about how to help our loved ones in crisis. I’ve been to the doctor three times, had my blood taken twice, and have scheduled a minor but important surgery.

Instead of writing the little bit of Chapter 20, I’ve looked up what Chapter 20 bankruptcy entails, and learned that it means filing for Chapter 7 then immediately filing for Chapter 13. I’ve also stumbled across the Web site of one financial advisor who explains that there is no Chapter 21, it’s just that Chapter 7 + Chapter 13 = Chapter 21, and I’ve thought wow, how did this person become a financial advisor?

And still, Chapter 20 awaits. Chapters 21 and 22, the last two chapters, are in fact complete. Or as complete as they will be before the potential day (think positive!) when some small press considers running the book after edits. Until that potential day (really trying to think positive here) Chapters 1–19, 21, and 22 are ripe and ready, as are the TOC, front and back matter, and a number of what I call interchapters.

Why is it so hard to finish? I could say that it’s because I’ve been working on this project for over four years. This project and my identity as a writer have followed the same trajectory. This project has utterly changed my life, coaxed from me that writer identity, and helped me establish a relationship with my father. This project has made me less angry. This project has drawn an outline around what was before just hodgepodge (on a good day) or wreckage (on a bad one). This project has given me a beginning and therefore also a future. How difficult to let go. To wrap it up. To move on.

But I don’t think it’s fear that’s holding me back. And I don’t think I’m milking it for all it’s worth (though that could very well be part of it).

Honestly? I just don’t know how to finish. Meaning, I really don’t know what to write. Chapter 20 needs something. But what? When I open Chapter 20, I go blank. Not a clue. Not even a faint hint of a clue. Not an idea, however misty and mysterious, crosses my mind. Dialogue? Scene? Exposition? Back story? Meditation? Lyric? Humor? Philosophy? Context? When I punch out a couple words, I feel so disconnected from them I don’t recognize them as my own. They seep into the words previously approved which turn sour and distorted. It creeps me out, I delete, I stand up and stretch, I walk to the pharmacy and look for hypoallergenic lip balm.

Fine time for writer’s block.


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