By Jane Bigelow
If only life worked as it does in some TV shows, where a character realizes his or her self-sabotaging moves (with or without counseling) and, zppity-pop, achieves instant reformation. If it did, then I wouldn’t still be struggling with Fear of Finishing.
There I sit, revising a short story that has already taken longer than any short story ought. I replace [brief notes in square brackets] with actual names. I check to make sure I haven’t described the same scene twice. (This is all too easy to do if you move scenes around.) Or, perhaps I’ve reached the point of using my crit group’s admirable suggestions. It’s close to being done. Just a little more polishing.
Suddenly progress slows. Choosing one version of the duplicated scene causes prolonged dithering. Combining the two is worse. Searching for a name for a secondary character leads me off down fascinating avenues, and meandering side streets, and claustrophobic alleyways of historical research. Ideas for other stories occur. Oh, I think that one’s worth a whole novel. Where’s my historical atlas of the Bronze Age? Or, in a more modern vein, why do I know so little about Versailles? The Princess of the Blood has a corpse to conceal. I must learn the floor plan, now.
I know this pattern well. Once I declare the story finished, the next logical step is to send it off. Other eyes will see it. They will judge. That’s what the editor is supposed to do, right? And maybe he or she as the case may be will snort incredulously, “She thinks this one’s ready?”
One advantage to re-fighting the same old battles is that I do know a few things that work for me. Maybe one or more will help you.
- Make notes of future projects. Short notes. Save and close the file. Step back from that bookcase. Copy that link, and save-and-close the blasted file, already.
- Lie to self about how close this is to being done. Pretend that finishing is still somewhere off in next week. No need to panic. There’s lots of work left to do before anyone else sees this.
- Do not let self wander off into wondering whether anal-retentive has a hyphen or not. Stay away from grammar blogs.
- Bribe self with promises of chocolate or binge-watching an old Buffy season. Maybe both at once.
- Bribe self with the thought of that file of new ideas. They’re all shiny and infinitely possible, but I can’t open any of them until I finish this project.
If you’re reading this, then I did manage to finish one thing.