by Jeffrey J. Michaels
I Can Resist Anything But Temptation.
~ Oscar Wilde (of course)
I have a Project. If you are reading this, you are a writer. You too have a project. It consumes your mental downtime. The ideas come fast and easy while you while away your hours in the cubicle, or serve customers, or however you spend your days. It is easy to come up with ideas. It is difficult to sit in your writing chair and bring them to fruition.
I have a Project.
This does not mean other ideas stop arriving all throughout the day. And they are GOOD ideas. They TEMPT me to follow them through to some conclusion. But. There is this Project.
As writers, we are generally creative beings who buck and kick at the stalls of discipline. We yearn to run free across the prairie of our inner worlds. At best, the project we commit to is a large fenced-in corral. Plenty of food and water, shade and sun in equal amounts, and fresh air galore. But that prairie beckons us: just over that hill, just out of that paddock.
The thing is, the prairie would need to offer food and water and shelter for us to feel comfortable. Should we break free, the result is often a yearning for the comforts of the corral.
Enough with that metaphor. No more horsing around. I am reigning myself in. It is just a fancy way of saying the grass is always greener on the other side of the desk.
Writing is Work
The point is, writing is work. It requires follow through on the part of the writer. But it is different than stocking shelves or crunching numbers. The soup cans are finite and the numbers that need to be added together already exist. In contrast, creative writing can be frustrating. Once tallied, an accountant’s numbers do not shift a point of view or take a plot twist that will alter the sum.
It might be better to think of your authorial leanings as relationship issues.
Our project, once beloved, once a bright flame in our hearts becomes complex and often takes on a metaphorical mind of its own. The characters get themselves in jams, and not the ones we originally plotted. How does that happen? It can be exciting at first. It can get annoying when we have been working on the book for years. Sometimes decades.
The New Idea
And then there is the new idea. It is a good one. It is attractive and topical. It almost writes itself. You cannot stop thinking about this amazingly attractive concept that is so different from the old flame that is now a smoldering pile of ash and ember. The spark has gone out of the Project. There are too many problems and it is too difficult to contemplate revising the entire manuscript.
But beware the temptation of the shiny thing. It could be that the old project just needs a little polishing.
It is an old story. And you know what happens. Temptation becomes a replacement for reason and obsession takes over for commitment. Some will follow the new idea, sleek and slim in bright red, be it a dress or a sports car.
But you cannot escape reality. Soon enough you will learn that the new idea is a lot like the old idea. It needs work. It needs dedication. It NEEDS. It is not infinitely compatible with the way the writer works. And the old Project, set aside and languishing, will seem fresher when perspective is offered. And ideas will come again.
Can You Resist?
The writer is the common denominator here. Can you, the writer, resist the temptation to wander away from your Project? Someone once said, “After my fourth divorce I began to wonder, is it me?”
It is a cliché that many Creatives have multiple projects going on at any given moment. If they are all active, if every one of them is getting some good attention and getting along, if they are all part of the same family (as it were), if there is motion, growth, and a view of a conclusion in sight, then go for it. It is called multitasking. It is like raising children. It is tough, noisy, and eminently distracting.
An experienced pro will continue to craft, shape, and discipline themselves with the understanding that familiarity can and will breed conTEMPT if you do not take responsibility to renew and reinvigorate your relationship with the primary Project until it graduates and moves out into the world to stand on its own two feet.
This state of being is called focus and commitment, and it is the antithesis of temptation. It is the thing that finishes books rather than begins a new manuscript. It is the difference between “good enough” and “great writing” because it demands pride and excellence from you, the author.
It is not easy. And you will be tempted.
Jeffrey J. Michaels is a Gemini. As such he is deeply involved in whatever interests him at the moment. His describes his book A Day at the Beach and Other Brief Diversions as “metaphyictional,” combining fantasy and humor with metaphysical elements. He is currently polishing a sweeping fantasy series of interconnected tales collectively known as The Mystical Histories. It is varied enough that he says he may even finish most of the stories. In his real life he is a well-respected creative and spiritual consultant. He does not like to talk about his award winning horror story. www.jeffreyjmichaels.com