The worst part of writing a novel? The beginning.
Not the beginning of the work itself, that’s fairly easy. You’ve got some characters, you put together a setting, and bang! zoom! you’re on your way.
No, what I dread is sitting myself down in front of that false idol of a writing utensil (how I loathe you, judgmental blinking cursor on my screen!) and committing wholly to at least a year of writing something that has no guarantee of publication, no assurance of an audience, not even a promise that it will make sense in the end.
Whatever it turns out to be, there isn’t even the security of completion to look forward to. It wouldn’t be the first time that I trekked out into the wilds of my mindscape to craft an opus of immeasurable importance only to find, 60,000 perfect words later, that I hated the bloody thing.
No one would ever accuse me of being spiritual. I maintain an obstinately pragmatic view of the world that oftentimes is the only thing keeping me sane. Nevertheless, launching a new project is the closest I’ve ever come to an act of pure faith.
How I envy poets and short story writers, not only for their talents but for their chosen art form as well. To exploit only a few lovely pages of text to make a point, and to wield the artistry to accomplish this; ‘tis a dexterity devoutly to be wished.
My brain does not work like that. It refuses immediate clarity for the sake of long-term commitments. It’s as if my grey matter seizes upon an idea and, no matter how small or intimate the concept may be, immediately labours to stretch it out to its breaking point. If the idea holds, it’s a novel. If it breaks, it wasn’t worth my time.
So I avoid the beginning like I avoid mowing the lawn or doing my taxes. I avoid the unpleasantness of work, despite the substantial merits to the job. I avoid it because writing is arduous. It is intensive. It is an enormous commitment of time in a world more and more devoted to the pleasures of the immediate.
I avoid it because I am terrified. Starting scares me more than death or public speaking. Starting implies continuance until completion. Again, my brain comprehends only the long-term and not the immediate, and all it sees is a tunnel with only a dim glow hesitantly flickering at its end.
And it is a long tunnel. And I do not want to start that trek, not when where I am now is so comfortable and warm.
To quote the great thinker Homer: “If something’s hard to do, then it’s not worth doing.”
I’d best not start. Better to sit here in safety. Only idiots go down dark paths. Only morons enter haunted houses.
No, I’m going to stay over here and enjoy myself. Take in a movie. Go get a burger.
Still, now, wait…I wonder what that light is?