Maybe it’s just me, as I amble towards the end of my current project, doing my utmost to follow my own tenth rule of writing fiction. There’s something that I’ve noticed over the past week. Maybe it’s just because I’m getting into ‘conference’ mode, or maybe this is a side effect of continuing to get everything squared away with the new flat.
The impression I get, however, is that the sooner we get to that finish line, the more things crop up to grab us by the ankles and trip us up before we cross it. Like hitting the wall only with the goal in site.
I mentioned this last week but I might have given the impression that I see a large portion of the entertainment industry through a somewhat cynical lens. I occasionally have to remind myself that the same industry that produces The Human Centipede or Jumper also produces Schindler’s List and District 9. For every Twilight, there’s A Song of Ice and Fire. You might hear a bit of Nickleback on the radio, but there’s bound to be a little Muse right around the corner. I guess what I’m driving at is that I don’t hate the industry, and it’s unfair of me to paint it with a broad brush.
But there is mediocrity out there. There’s the kind of thinking that would have you subscribe to the notion that it’s okay just to get by. That being amazing is just wrapping up another client’s project, and exemplary work is the kind that brings in more business that’ll help maintain the Audi’s suspension for another six months. That’s the kind of thing I want to get away from. And as I get a bit closer to finishing a manuscript that feels like it’s got something behind it other than my hot air and swollen ego, a bit of fiction with a brain in its head and some characters that actually have a touch of depth to them, I can almost feel that mediocrity creeping up on me, trying to smother my enthusiasm and remind me that my place is not to shine among the stars but to look up at them and dream as I remain mired in the mud down in the foundations of somebody else’s palace.
It’s like spraining a toe in the last 5 meters of a 100 meter dash. Taking the last turn a bit too wide on a Formula 1 track. Being down at least one goal as the clock hits 90 minutes and there’s not a lot of stoppage time. The well-educated, reasonable, lazy, McDonalds-eating thing to do is stop. Quit. You’ve done a great deal, but now you’re just hurting yourself and you should be content in making a good effort. Pat yourself on the back, treat yourself to a rest, you’ve earned it.
Am I just beating a dead horse, here? Am I saying anything new? I’m not just talking about this post, either. What possible difference can my work make? Do I really have a shot at producing anything interesting, anything worth reading?
I’m certainly not going to find out if I quit.
This is the home stretch. The checkered flag is in sight. A few more steps, painful as they might be, and I’ll cross that finish line. And yes, my performance will get picked apart in post. There’ll be slow-motion replay of every little mistake. People with a lot more experience than me will be all too happy to point out what I could do better, what they’d have done differently and might even tell me that I should have quit long ago.
I know this is coming. I know it might not be comfortable for me, that it will feel like I’ve just caught my breath only to have somebody punch me in the gut. But I accept this. I have to. I need to be aware of the fact that what I’ve done is imperfect, that it needs help, that it’s a lump of carbon deep in the darkness of my imagination and to truly shine it needs to be placed under pressure from a lot of outside forces. It’s frightening, on a fundamental level, and potentially painful, which might be why the last couple of days have seen me putting very few words of any significance down.
I’m girding my loins. I’m seeing the Wave coming and I’m ready to catch it. I hope some of you will come along for the ride, even if it’s just to tell me how much I suck.
I’m not quitting. I’m pounding out those last 5 meters. I’m making that last turn. I’m staying ahead of the defenders and waiting to get that pass that’ll let me slip one past the keeper. And for right now, I’m done making lousy metaphors.
It would be a hell of a waste of a writer’s conference if I didn’t do any writing, after all.