Saturday, September 22, 2018

Post Partum Tristum

     If you’re a creator – and that term applies not just to the arts and humanities, but to any field where considerations of grace and elegance apply – you probably know the unique variety of sadness that comes from confronting a piece of your work and saying: “It’s finished. There’s nothing more for me to do to it.”

     I’ve just finished the first draft of Experienced, about which my regular Gentle Readers have heard sporadically for some time. I’ve backed it up on removable media and put a copy in my fireproof safe. I’ve emailed it to my “alpha reader.” I’ve notified the artist who did my last three covers that it’s time to think about a cover for the thing. I’ve straightened up my working spaces and put all my notes in order. In short, I’m finished...and the realization has left me feeling as if I have no reason to live.

     It will pass, of course. Experienced is Novel #14, so I’ve been here before. I managed to claw my way out of all those post-creative pits of despair, so I’ll probably manage it this time as well. But I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it. I know I’ll never be able to “prepare” for it. It’s different each time.

     I’m told that women who’ve just given birth feel something like this. It stands to reason.

     When a creator gives himself wholly, for a time, to some creation, he cannot detach it from him without a wound. Such a wound is never fatal; in time it will scar over and heal. But the sense of emptiness as one allows one’s creation to part from him and face the world beyond him is still a difficult thing to bear. For a little while, life loses some of its luster. It can be sharpened by the fear that one’s work is permanently done – that there might be no more creations ahead. And of course, at some point that will be the case.

     I think I have a few more stories to tell. There’s one that’s been nagging at me from my hindbrain for twenty years, but which I’ve never successfully fleshed out. There’s another that seems absolutely smashing, but up to now I’ve had no luck coming up with a cast of characters for it. There’s no point thinking about them when I’m this tapped out emotionally. Indeed, the attempt makes the post-creative sadness worse.

     Never fear, this isn’t some sort of cry for help. I’ll be fine in a couple of days. But to those who’ve occasionally expressed a wish to become a novelist / artist / sculptor / composer / what have you, it should serve as a caution. This is part of the price of creative activity. It cannot be removed from the package. It can only be endured.

     To all my Gentle Readers: Thank you for bearing with me these last few weeks. Things should improve shortly. And now it’s 3:00 PM, which we call Snort Time here at the Fortress of Crankitude, and I can hear an unopened bottle of Harvey’s calling my name ever so sweetly. You might want to consider doing likewise. Have a nice weekend.

All my best,


Margaret Ball said...

Strange. I too know that fear that one's work is permanently done -- but it doesn't hit me at the end of a book -- usually it hits when I'm around 10-20% done with the next book.

End-of-book syndrome usually proceeds more like this:

F(finish) + 10: "Yay me! I finished it!"
F + 30: "I am SUCH a brilliant writer!"
F + 2 days: "Hey, where's my parade?"
F + 3 days: "Oh, all right, back to work."

Francis W. Porretto said...

I suppose it hits each writer uniquely, Margaret. It's hit me variably over the years, as well. In 1995, when I was midway through the composition of my first novel, I was continuously consumed by doubt of my storytelling skills, to the point that I frequently asked myself "Who am I to think I should be writing this?" It wasn't until readers from faraway places started writing to thank me for my novels that I regained enough confidence to proceed.

Today, I live in fear that each book will be my last. The completion of a novel-under-construction leaves me with chills better imagined than described. My age has something to do with that -- I'm 66 and not in the best of health -- but not everything. And thank you, most sincerely, for commenting here. Your perspective is greatly appreciated.