I like things to be over and done with.
And get very grouchy when things go on and on and on. That was an advantage of our theatre work: there’s a point when it opens, a point when you put it to bed. Even if you love it, even if you have it in touring repertory for years & years, there’s a point when it comes down to “That’s all she wrote!” Maybe something innate in my genes, something from toilet training, or, starting from Cub Scouts, just having too much stuff on my worklist.
And so I suffer frustration with stuff that won’t let go. Stuff that, even doing it today, you have to do it tomorrow. Not so much the bathroom stuff, the food stuff, or even going to the gym, but those chronic tasks that feel as if there’s a finish but there’s not.
Two categories right now. The first is yardwork. We are blest and curst by Ye Gods with care of half an acre. The house takes up part of that, but not enough. It does give us the blessing of space for a garden and stretches of growth that a friend described as, “How very pre-Raphaelite!” But there are certain tasks—weeding, fighting back the ivy and the juniper, picking the scaly growth out of the moss yard—that will never be done till the death of the planet (or me, whichever comes first).
The deeper frustration is creative. Besides our lifelong theatre work (now limping off in the distance), in the last 15 years we’ve written 7 novels (three self-published), 40 short stories (7 published), and three years of weekly blogging. It’s not the same thing.
Yes, some similarities. Rewrites are endless. Every time you perform your play you’re trying another inflection or word choice on that line that ought to get a laugh and never has. Likewise, every time you rewrite a piece on the page, you wrestle with that one inconsiderate comma. But the play gets instant response, even if it’s from a handful of people. For prose on the page, unless you hit it big or write identifiable genre fiction, you’re lucky if even friends will read and respond.
That might feel different to writers who haven’t had the live-audience experience. What’s the difference? I suppose that, for me, with theatre there’s a completion at each performance, even if you have another ten shows that month and two years to go with the piece. There’s an illusion that, for that one day, you’ve ripped up all the ivy, gotten rid of your worklist in one fell swoop, given it your all. Every performance has a beginning, middle, and end.
Right now we’re doing final edits and layout on AKEDAH: THE BINDING, a novel so off-track that we’ll offer it free to friends, and in the 7th draft of an equally weird but more user-friendly novel MASKS, which we’ll shop to agents and publishers. Meantime, I’ll find my sense of finality, completion, whatever you call it, simply in doing, day by day, what I do, whether barbering the moss or excising that cranky paragraph from Chapter 9. Taking satisfaction in that requires a massive soul transformation, but I can put that on the worklist and cross it off when done.