Nowadays, I start writing a lot of stories before I find the one that I actually want to carry through and finish. It’s kind of an illness, actually. I’ll flesh out entire stories, with characters and settings and interesting voices and neat premises, but there’ll be one element missing (usually the ending) and I’ll think about it for awhile and realize, “Ehh, this doesn’t really interest me.”
I’ll know that, if I wanted to, I could push through and finish the thing, but what would be the point? I’m not entirely sure that this is a beneficial development. It certainly hampers my productivity. A year or two ago, I definitely would’ve finished most of these stories, and maybe some of them would’ve turned out great!
Also, there’s a fair amount of despair involved in the process. When you’re operated off a hazy internal sense like, “Am I interested in writing this?” it’s like you’re praying to this unfathomable god that communicates to you in these very obscure symbols. When I am in the depths of a search for a new story, I sometimes start to wonder if there’s any story that I am really interested in writing.
To date, I’ve always come up out of that agony with a story that interests me, but it might not always happen. I would like to see, sometime, what would happen if I pushed through and wrote one of the other stories. I think there is some value in pushing through. Early in my career, I wasn’t nearly as in touch with my sense of inspiration, and I did a lot of pushing through, and I think it helped me to get through some troubled times.
But there’s also another danger in my method. At some point during my story-formulation process, I reach the rollover point. That is the place where I’ve locked down enough pieces of the story that I start to get the sense that “Oh, alright. I’m going to finish this one.” Sometimes the rollover point comes when I have a few thousand words on the page. But more and more often, it times it comes when I only have 700. Sometimes the rollover point is a false sense, but it generally seems to be pretty accurate (it’s actually something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, since generally the only thing stopping me from completing a story is a lack of desire, on my part, to complete it).
Anyway, reaching the rollover point is such a delicious sense of relief that I often pause at its precipice for several days and do no work on the story. It’s just so great to have a story locked down. So much so that I feel like I should take this moment to handle other things in my life: things that are not nearly as locked down.
This doesn’t seem healthy. I’ve found, in both my writing and my personal life, that any mildly negative habit which initially seems harmless eventually becomes a crutch and an impediment to future development.
Someday, I am going to have to break my enjoyment of the rollover point.
But that day is not today.