An End is Like a Little Death

Last night I finished a novel that I started writing more than seven years ago. It wasn’t the first, or the last novel that I wrote with enthusiasm up to the 90% mark just to burn out on the last hundred yards. I am, of course, happy that I finished it. It’s a quiet kind of happiness: not the kind to make one jump up and down and clap their hands with glee, but more like relief that something that was wrong has finally been righted. I’m also hopeful that it means I might some day finish my other abandoned works and lighten the load of debt and guilt they’ve been weighing me down with.

But at the same time, I’m sad. Sad that it’s done and in a way — gone. A story is born inside the author’s mind, and there it grows and shifts and changes, and so long as it’s not written, it has a peculiar freedom to go in different directions, a potential to develop in different ways. The act of writing turns it from imagination to banal reality and thereby robs it of some of its magic. Infinite possibilities collapse into imperfect words. In a way, a story dies as it’s created.

I knew how this one would end long before I even started it. Writing out those last few chapters so many years after their inception has been a supreme pleasure, which I earned by pressing on through many months of poor confidence and even poorer inspiration. There was a point, a few weeks ago, when I suddenly felt that I can write again, like something broke through a dam inside me and started flowing out. It was a breeze after that. And yet I felt an odd but familiar resistance. A fear of finishing. It was the fear of death. But I recognized and acknowledged it and it had no power to stop me this time. Now that I have finished this, I fear that real, banal death a little less.

The novel is tentatively titled Thinker Traitor Soldier Spectre and it’s a Mass Effect fanfiction about how Saren and Nihlus first met and became friends. I’m not about to burden myself (or anyone else) with promises and ETAs this time. It’s written, but it’s yet to be polished, and if it takes me another seven years to give it the high shine it deserves, so be it.

And in the meantime, now that the dam’s been broken, I can start dealing with those other unfinished tales.

Image: Smoke is Beautiful, by Defiant-Ant

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