Wagons & Saddles


As usual, I was supposed to write this days ago. Writing always takes the back-burner, is the first to be sent to the back of the queue, behind client work, videogames, and doing nothing. Tweeting scratches the itch to write just enough to make you think you’re doing something, and in three years my persona on twitter has spread to a number of accounts covering everything from myself, to movies, games, books, comics, and even RANTING.

Blogging once held this position.

“I’ll write, but first let me blog about how I haven’t written, my writer’s block, and how I’m going to write.”

Which is basically what this is now.

I don’t think I can classify what I have as writer’s block anymore. Ten years is a long time to have been off the wagon (Why is it that you fall off the wagon, but get back in the saddle?). In the last ten years I have never stopped writing, but I have stopped finishing things. And like the proverbial falling tree in the empty forest, if it isn’t finished, then it may as well not exist. Some of you, kind souls that you are, will point to the short story I wrote years ago as a finished piece of work. And I will grant you that, short as it was, it does qualify. But I also know that it was supposed to be the start of a large number of semi-interconnected stories, and so in my head at least it remains unfinished.

(Excuse me, I just went away to tweet about this post I’m writing)

The strict form on your words that twitter imposes is enticing. Sometimes I consider writing a story in tweets. It’s a gimmick, but then, so is writing an action ‘novel’ in 500 words. Things of great beauty can emerge from that 140 character box, but so can they from the vast, bottomless window of Notepad as well, and I like to remind myself that all novels, great and small, started with no back cover to assure the author of a safe landing.

(Excuse me, I just went away to tweet about this post on the ranty account because the term ‘blogging’ seems funny. It’s 2001 again.)

NaNoWriMo has tried to remedy this to an extent, with the 50,000 word goal. I have participated in most NaNos over the last decade, but have yet to even best my first, NaNo 2001 achievement of 35,000 words. I’m sure that, on average, I wrote about that much fiction per year over the decade, but never into anything finished. Hundreds of thousands of words sitting there like so much risen dough, waiting for a loaf pan (baking is another thing writing has taken a back seat to. I sometimes catch myself thinking of baking like one might think of all their unfinished novels suddenly being ready & successful). But even all that goal-oriented writing doesn’t spur me into finishing things. It only ever gets me to start new things. Like Don Draper (according to Dr. Faye Miller), I only ever seem to love the Beginning of things.

Mad Men, and stories of its quality, loom large over me as well. They are at once beacons to follow & aspire to, and seemingly unattainable masterpieces, hurdles insurmountable by someone who can’t even get to THE END of a first draft. Take the last season (number five), and the way it ended. It’s definitely not the end of the series, but if it did have to end, I can’t think of a better way than employing the theme song from You Only Live Twice, followed by an innocuously-posed question, and Don’s profoundly enigmatic response.

Or lack of one. Because it cuts to the credits before he says anything. Those people know how and when to end something. I’m a little afraid of this post going off the rails (and a wagon and a saddle) into non-stop gushing about Mad Men — which it still could — but the point is that fear is as present in an writer as it is the audience, and often ending something sooner than you think is better than never at all.

I’ve had my share of frustrating, absurd anticlimaxes to things in my personal & professional life, and while that isn’t what we enjoy in fiction, prolonging and postponing things for the sake of word counts or writing traditions only delivers an ending that is nothing but absurd and anticlimactic.

I thought that this blog post would end differently, with some grand proclamation of getting back on that saddle, of promising — as I have many times before — a valiant return to writing, to producing, to meeting word counts and doing heroic feats of typing & first-draftery. But really, all I’m looking for is an ending.

And I’m going to go see if can find it.