So why haven’t you finished a book: an existential crisis

This week, my psychiatrist asked me if I was working on a book. I told him I’d started and discarded no less than seven books. He asked me why I’d done that. I said it because they were bullshit and no one would want to read them.

He asked this question the same way you ask a person why they decided to go to a particular place for vacation. Like it’s a knowable thing. Like it’s a questions that doesn’t demand an existential answer. Like it wouldn’t send me into a total and complete tailspin. Like it’s a normal thing to say to someone.

He suggested there might be a bigger issue at play than just not finishing books and that perhaps I should think about that. Perhaps my frustration in some other parts of my life was a result of the unfinished work on my writing. So I said I would think about it, and politely went about my business.

About 36 hours later, I had a complete come apart and cried a lot and drank a bunch of vodka. It’s possible there was a more sane way to handle that. But maybe not.

The truth is I don’t know why I haven’t finished. I can give you a lot of totally legit market analysis about why what I write isn’t that different from what other people do (and they do it much better), so there’s really no space for my stuff. I can tell you that I haven’t done anything in real life interesting enough to write about.

I can explain any number time considerations and personal issues. I don’t feel qualified to be a life coach or spiritual advisor or any of the other things we expect writers to be, particularly female writers. I haven’t overcome much other than my own disastrous personality. I’m late a lot.

But none of those is the real answer. I just… haven’t finished.

So I’m going to do the thing that I hate to do almost more than anything in the world. I’m going to join something. I know. It sounds awful to me too. But I have to do something to force myself to actually finish something. Because buckets of vodka aren’t much of a solution.

nanowrimo_logowithwordsBeginning November 1, I’m going to participate in National Novel Writing Month. I don’t know if it will technically be a novel. But I’m going to follow their stupid rules and make myself finish a damn book. Even if it’s bullshit. Even if I never let anyone read it. Even if it never goes anywhere or does anything. I’m going to finish a book before this year is over.

I’m also telling you about it here because now I have to do it. I can’t chicken out and pretend I didn’t say it or flake on this project. It’s 30 days, for crying out loud. I can do this work for 30 days. Even if it’s bad work, it will still be complete work.

I don’t think this will necessarily make me sane. But it might make me less neurotic. And that might be nice.



8 thoughts on “So why haven’t you finished a book: an existential crisis

  1. Kerri, NaNoWriMo is the way to break through and get at least one book finished and out of you. I started NaNo in 2003. I think I FINALLY finished a novel in 2009. I just kept plugging along every year. I have my novel. It is in a brown envelope sitting at my right elbow. I keep it there to remind me that I can DO IT!

    I have participated in NaNo every year since 2003. Sometimes I finish, sometimes I don’t. The point is that for at least one month I am focused on writing a book. I don’t always write novels either. I just make sure that I write.

    I will be cheering you on. Please keep us updated. You can do this GF! I will be struggling along with you.

    BTW, there is a local NaNo community. Hook up with them. I think you will find it helpful. They have been great in years past. Due to mobility issues I don’t get to go to the events but I think that you will enjoy the support. I know people who do.

    Cheers, Ardee-ann

  2. Kerri… I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog posts, and this one spoke to me more than most. I wrote my first book 11 YEARS AGO. I put that in SHOUTIE letters because after I got it rejected by two (a whole two!) literary agents, it took me another eight years to post it up to Amazon as a Kindle book… and I didn’t even try to put it in print at the time.

    I got one negative comment about it on the site from a friend, and yanked it right down within a month. Sat on it for more than a year after that. After I’d sulked long enough, I went ahead and re-read it, got rid of most of the horrible typos that got me dissed the first round, and put it in print this time, through CreateSpace. And I put it back up on Kindle, too. There are still a couple typos! But, it’s in print.

    And then I did the thing I’ll advise you to do… because you’ve already written a book. I also write 800-word op-eds for the local, weekly community newspaper, for free. Keeps me working to deadlines and I even get the chance to be funny on occasion. OK, I think I’m funny.

    Took all those, picked the 50 best, and put them together in a book on Kindle and CreateSpace again. I’m NOT advertising, cross my heart, but it’s titled She’s Thinking Out Loud. Just saying, you already have a book. Put all your blog posts together in some order, even if it only makes sense to you, and put it up for sale. Forget the rest of it, just do it anyway. That takes that “first book” pressure off, and then you can get all crazy with the rest of us.

    I’m working on the sequel to my first novel, a mystery, during NaNoWriMo myself–and the best thing I’ve done is get involved with the local writer’s group. A lot are participating in NaNoWriMo, some will write the 50,000 words, some won’t–but I”m going to try to get the first draft of the sequel done–I’m three chapters in, but stalled due to a contracting job I picked up over the summer, and ready to bust out writing.

    Good luck…

  3. However you bring yourself to write these blogs – Do that! Your writing is unique and immediately engaging – whether it’s triggered by passion, curiosity or humorous observation. You don’t shy away from the difficult bits which is refreshing and the subject presentation is always smart…….so says an appreciative reader from Texas…

  4. I hope you love NaNo. I did it in 2009 & 2010 and then life intervened. I am doing it again this year! I second getting involved with your local NaNo write-ins and other events. Where I live we are all a bunch of introverted nerds who rarely speak but man, are we pounding out the words. The NaNo secret is butt-in-chair = writing-is-happening. Don’t edit until December. I hope you love it!

  5. You can do this. You won’t regret it. Do it for you, and no other reason. It doesn’t matter if NO ONE ever wants to read it. A dream is a dream. It’s yours. Own it.


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