On Being Finite

shallow focus photography of hourglass
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On Thursday I concluded a short story, though really that “story” was more like the first act of a much bigger piece. I’ve had a few posts on here that fit into that category: Power Suit Racing, Phisherman, Network Down, and Imposed Will. These examples are different from my other works that have featured open endings, but still felt narratively complete.

For each of these “first-acts,” I don’t actually know what the rest of their story would look like. There are obvious conflicts and themes that their beginnings suggest, but I never figured out what the final implementation of those would be. If it were possible, I would like to give full expression to all of these incomplete ideas. As you might imagine, I write the sorts of stories that I would like to read, and these beginnings leave me hungry to discover their end.

And maybe I will complete some of these one day, but I’m certain I never will finish them all. There simply isn’t enough time. This has been a difficult reality to accept, but eventually I managed to do so. Not only that, I’ve come to see a beauty in it.

The Imagination Exceeds)

What it all comes down to is that my imagination is greater than my ability to produce. I have made mention of this trend in a previous blog post. There I mentioned that authors commonly hold a very clear vision of what they want their stories to convey, but when they write it out the result is far from that mark. So they rewrite it, and rewrite it, and rewrite it again. Each time they might get closer and closer to that original vision, but never quite there. Our reach very easily exceeds our grasp.

One can live in denial of that limitation or they can accept it. Indeed, one of the surest signs of an amateur is the unrealistic expectations they still set for themselves. “There’s no way this story will take me more than a year to write…year-and-a-half, tops. And it’ll be a masterpiece!” The imagination is nothing if not ambitious!

Though the first doses of reality might taste bitter, they really are the cure. The sooner you make peace with your limitations and accept them, the sooner you can put together realistic plans that account for them.

 

Choosing Which Story Matters Most)

Once you come to terms with the fact that not all of your ideas can be brought to life, you will naturally come to the question of which ones should be. The most obvious answer is whichever one is the most exciting to you.

That might be the best option, but I recommend pausing to be sure. Because again, since we are being realistic now, crafting that tale is going to take a long time. So maybe this idea is really exciting to you right now, but is it going to remain so? Sometimes the most profound of ideas sound ridiculously immature a couple years later.

We have a severe disadvantage here, because any answers will be mere conjecture. We cannot read the future and we do not know what sort of life experiences are going to fundamentally shift our paradigms. We can only reliably measure the past.

For that reason, I would recommend using the past to try and gauge the future. When I decided which novel to focus on I chose With the Beast because I had been continually circling back to it for five years already. The fact that I was still finding its underlying concepts important suggested that it really did matter.

Even if you don’t have any story ideas that extend back that far, you probably have interests or beliefs that do. What ideas have consistently mattered the most to you over the years? Could you develop a story about them?

 

It’s Better This Way)

Now I mentioned already that I have not only made peace with my imagination exceeding my capacity to write, but that I have found a beauty in it as well. Indeed I truly see it as a blessing, because the alternative would be far, far worse.

To live in complete fulfillment of one’s fantasy would leave one nothing more to dream of. I would rather finish my life with songs unsung, than to have not had enough to fill my life. And the day I write a story and find nothing to improve is the day I stop growing as an author.

It may not seem like a great blessing at first, but truly this is the proper order of things. To forever chase after that elusive ideal, and by so doing traverse many miles. Perhaps in heaven we will attain the full expression of our imagination, but so long as we were on earth let us have an endless chase.

 

For now my novel writing is entirely focused on With the Beast. Whatever I write after that I will determine then, but I certainly have many options to choose from! On Thursday I would like to share a glimpse into just one of those options. It is a pairing to two mood pieces, one on the subject of darkness and the other on light. There are characters mentioned in them, but both pieces were originally written in isolation, with no greater narrative in mind. As I suggested above, though, ideas that matter to you might provide an excellent foundation for weaving a story around. That was my experience with these pieces. Their moods continued to haunt me, and soon I found myself wrapping an outline over them. On Thursday I won’t be disclosing that plot, but I will share the two scenes that seeded that narrative.

Hopefully one day I will have time to write out that story. And hopefully if I do, I will be able to decently evoke the scenes that I envision for it. Regardless, I am happy just to think of such things and grateful to share some of them with you.

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