I’m fortunate to have a league of friends and associates that like to keep tabs on how my work in progress is coming along. It’s wonderful being surrounded by people who are as excited to know a writer, as I am to be one. However, some of their questions perplex me. One of the questions I hear most often is “how is your novel coming along?” It’s a pretty standard question and I have no problems answering it. But it’s also a question that is a bit more complicated than these individuals realize.
I always have at least one work in progress. Usually it’s a primary project and two or three side projects. The primary project is the one with the deadline (self-imposed at this point) and the side projects are various stories and series that I’m playing around with or still developing. Most of my time and creative energy is spent on the primary project and when I need a short break to clear my brain I’ll spend a few hours on one of the secondary projects. The primary project also the only one I talk openly about.
Until recently, there’s been only one novel that I've been public about. But I finished the first draft of said novel in January and the edits in April. I was so excited and proud of myself that I announced it to the whole world. My friends should know that “the novel” is complete and that I'm on to the next. If they asked "are you going to publish it" that would make more sense. So why are they still asking about "the novel's" progress? Is it habit? Do they doubt that I actually did it? Is their memory so faulty that they don’t remember? I’m willing to write off a few repetitive questions to faulty memory, but not all of them. A few of the update seekers are that spacey, but not all of them; which still leaves me wondering why are they asking for a status update on a finished project?
I can't help wondering if it’s because of how non-writers view the craft. I suspect that these individuals think the creation of a novel is an insurmountable task that can never be finished. Whether this pre-conceived notion is conscious or not, I don’t know. Either way, it would certainly color their perception. To use last week’s jigsaw analogy, it’s as if they think there are an infinite number of pieces to be placed. It doesn’t matter how many times I tell them that the puzzle only has a thousand pieces and that all of them are in place, they still think there are more hidden in the box.
Obviously, writing a novel is not an insurmountable task (shelves, both physical and cyber, are overflowing with the proof) and I don’t think it’s a reflection of any doubt that they have in me. They are my friends after all. I think what it’s actually a reflection of is doubts they have of their own abilities. Because writing a novel is something they believe they could never do or even aspire to do, they think that no one in their social circles can either. Even that would be too much to aspire to.
That’s an incredibly depressing thought. I'd like to think that my friends have a more positive outlook, but I'm not so sure. I hope that I’m wrong for their sake.