A friend just asked me, “What makes you want to finish your book? I’m sure you have many other story ideas that you want to play with…”
I stared at the question.
On one hand, I can understand the reasoning. If writing is simply a hobby, why keep at it if it is not entertaining you? Why not scrap stories and start new ones whenever the current story starts getting difficult? (As, in fact, I did when I ten years old)
But that is if writing is simply a hobby. If your novel is simply an amusing pastime.
To an author, a novel is far more than a hobby or a trivial amusement. It is your joy and pain. Your labor and love. Your greatest opportunity for glory or humiliation. In short, it is your child.
And so the question, “Why keep at it?” sounds not only absurd, it sounds outlandish. Do you care for your child only when the act brings warm fuzzy feelings? Do you love your child only when it brings you immediate personal gratification? Do you go and throw your child into the street when it starts getting on your nerves or simply fails to entertain you? I should hope not. What makes a parent is the constant act of loving and nurturing and molding the incredible creation known as a child. What makes an author is the constant act of loving and nurturing and molding the incredible creation known as a story. Yes, the story will give you headaches and will defy you and will keep you awake at night. But this story is yours. You don’t simply toss it away just because it is digging in its heels and saying “No!”
Of course I have other story ideas I want to try. And sometimes I do write a song or a poem or a short story. Sometimes I even start a poem and shrug it off. Why? It is not my child. I write a poem much as I pick up another person’s child. It coos and grins and brings me immediate reward. But it is a short pleasure. I may never once have to change that child’s exploding diaper. But by that very same token, I can also never love it in the same way that I would love my own child. A poem can be fun to write. But if it only cost me an hour or two of effort, I can never hold it with the same parental pride that I can hold a book that is still not polished and perfected, but has been the work of six years.
One of these days it will step out into the wide world. But now is not that time, and in the meantime, I will do my best to give it the attention and direction that it needs.