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A Work In Progress

Last updated on March 3, 2019

A Work In Progress

I hate talking about things in progress.

I also hate the word hate (it’s so strong!) but nothing makes me more uncomfortable than talking about things I’m working on. I would almost rather be half-naked in front of a crowd of people (which I’ve done on occasion, so I guess there’s precedent) than discuss something I’m currently writing.

But I’m also trying to hold myself accountable for my writing, something that’s extremely difficult to do when the easily trickable boss* who lives in my head is the only person checking up on my progress.

(*I’ve probably talked about this before, but early on in freelancing I realized the only way to keep myself on task was to create a separate authoritarian entity in my brain who yelled at me until I got s**t done.)

So here goes:

I’ve been aiming to write in as many different formats as possible, for no purpose other than to challenge myself. I’ve written a few stories here and there, but nothing I’d consider real fiction short stories since college. So I wrote one that ended up way long, and in retrospect is probably terrible (I’m still nervous about going back and editing that one due to the potential cringing embarrassment).

And then I had an idea for another one, and figured I’d write it and see how it went. So I did, almost exactly a week ago, while on the train in to work. It was definitely a different tone and structure than the first (probably terrible) one, so even if neither of them saw the light of day at least I was pushing myself in uncomfortable directions.

But about three quarters of the way through writing this story on the train, I had an idea, and as those ideas often go it started with “wouldn’t it be funny if…” The idea was based on something a character mentioned in the story, and it seemed at the time interesting to follow up on what he was suggesting.

I let that sit for a day or two, and then when it had marinated in my brain for long enough, I wrote a second short story that could potentially stand on its own, while also expanding on the idea dropped in that first story.

While I was writing that second story, I had another idea, which again started with “wouldn’t it be funny if…” and soon after finishing the second story, started a third, independent but linked story.

I am now almost twenty thousand words into writing this thing, and I feel like I’m driving a car with no breaks straight down a mountain. The horrifying part right now is that I can see the end of the mountain, but there are miles to go of mostly unknown terrain between here and there. And as exciting as it is — because there’s a certain level of driving down a mountain at top speed that’s inherently exciting — I’m terrified.

My brain keeps jumping ahead too, trying to anticipate what happens next after I’m done writing this whole piece, rather than navigate the path I’m on. Which is when my boss brain jumps in to demand I concentrate on the mountain I’m rocketing down.

But even scarier, honestly, is putting this all out there. Even as I write this sentence, I’m waffling about posting it — not just because people now know I’m writing a thing and will potentially ask questions about it (oh god what if someone asks “what are you working on” will I barf to death from nervousness yes probably). But because, what if I fail? What if I get halfway through and get distracted, and subsequently crash and burn?

That’s also why I’m putting this out there, though. Because revealing myself like this, creating that external pressure from people who don’t live in my head is like standing naked in front of a crowd.

And at least that I know how to do.

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