You’ve seen Wonderboys, right? Michael Douglas plays a writer who hasn’t been published in years. Throughout these years of non-publication, however, he is writing. He’s writing a magnum opus that ends up getting blown away into a river, thanks to Robert Downey Jr. Once the monstrous manuscript is gone, Douglas is asked what his book was about, to which he replies: “I don’t know.” When further questioned, he admits, “I couldn’t stop.”
I’ve been working on my novel for a year and a half, and it has—for the past six months—become the bane of my existence. I dreaded working on it. I wallowed in my own guilt because the last thing I wanted to do was write. I hated my characters. I was sick of my story. I didn’t want to do it anymore. So last week I decided to quit. And a wave of peace and joy swept over me as I moved my novel’s folder off my desktop and into my hidden documents. The peace increased as I realized I could leave that story behind. Finally, I could stop.
By no means does this mean I will stop being a writer. Instead, I’ve been filled with random, weird ideas for new projects. Apparently, my mom thinks I’m funny, so while I was home for Christmas, she asked me why I didn’t write a funny book. I responded that I don’t like reading funny books, so I probably wouldn’t like writing a funny book. Then I realized I was lying to myself. I do like funny books. I adore S#%# my Dad Says and Yoga Bitch (which I just finished; review forthcoming). And I do like writing funny blog posts, so why not try for a funny book?
So my head is now filled with strange images and ideas for stories. There is a certain amount of anxiety with starting from scratch. Will I be able to know new characters after having spent so many months with the old ones? Will I be funny if I’m actually trying to be funny? Will I be able to put together a cohesive funny story at all? I’m a writer, so I doubt myself almost every day. However, I also have faith. Faith that I can be funny; faith that I am a good writer; and finally, faith that these two beliefs were given to me for a reason: to use them.
Yes, there will be outcry from my writers’ group, who will never know how my 460-page, never-ending-a-la-Wonderboys manuscript would have ended. There will be the shaking of heads from my doubters as they mutter, “What a failure.” But I don’t feel like a failure. I feel strong, because I have finally admitted to myself that my year and a half experiment is over. Like Michael Douglas, I have let it go, and I’m ready to move on to better things. Let’s face it: I’m already a better writer now than I was a year and a half ago. Maybe my old manuscript was just practice for the one I’m going to start soon. I have been reborn, and it feels good to say, “I quit … but I am ready to begin again.”