We've talked here about the idea of resistance. The resistance to finishing projects. The resistance to getting important work done. I've recommended a great book on the subject called, The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield. That book has helped me get over the anxiety that comes with trying to finish something for the first time.
I re-read that book every time I get a new contract from my publisher to complete a book on photography. It really helps. I can identify the things I'm doing, unconsciously, to sabotage my writing efforts and I can work harder to get past those pernicious road blocks.
But golly. I sure am having problems finishing what is to me one of my most important projects. And reading the Pressfield book again just doesn't seem to help me budge this one.
You see, I started writing a novel in 2002. It was a dark time for me. The events of 9/11 temporarily destroyed my business and a profound health issue almost made everything else irrelevant. I couldn't really work as a location photographer for months. And we topped it all off with a king sized dose of unrelenting anxiety. But the one thing that made it all bearable was a book I started writing. In fact, I finished all the principal writing in that year. I spent a lot of time squatting at a table at the local Starbucks and I finished up in december at a table at the Caffe Medici on West Lynn.
The book is a novel. It's a fun, quirky story about a photographer who gets an assignment to go to Lisbon to cover a big, week long trade show. But he is quickly drawn into a dangerous adventure as someone else's bout of attempted corporate espionage goes south. A past job as an intelligence researcher, and a U.S. government without many resources on the ground, propels my hapless photographer/character into unwanted action and narrow escapes. And all the while he tries to do a good job on the corporate assignment because....he desperately needs the money.
I had a blast writing it. I'd been on a similar assignment several years earlier in Lisbon so I knew the general lay of the land. I've read a zillion spy and detective novels and I was ready to try my hand at story telling. Especially with a character who is a working (but aging) photographer, in over his head.
But here's the downside: A novel takes a lot of time to polish. And at the end of my convalescence and the end of the year we got really busy again in the photo business and I was determined to make up for lost time. Then the book contracts for the non-fiction books started arriving one after the other and the novel was mothballed. But I couldn't give it up. My friends who'd read it loved it. They kept pushing me.
When things slowed down in the business again this year I decided it was now or never and started taking a run at re-writing and polishing again. But the resistance to finishing gets harder and harder as I get closer and closer. There always seems to be some pressing thing I have to attend to. A short term opportunity that clouds the long term potential of getting the book out the door. A need to lock down money and resources that takes precedence over a personal project.
Why am I telling you this? Because, in a way I feel like the readers of the blog are like friends. We share a lot of similarities and we've shared a lot of virtual ink together. And I'm telling you so you'll understand if my blogging gets a little sporadic in the coming month. I've given myself a deadline. It's the one thing this project has never really had. I'm giving myself till the end of July to make the timeline flow, to flesh out the characters a bit and to convert some of my plot shorthanding into flowing narrative.
At the end of the month my designer and I are planning to put this work up on Amazon.com as my first piece of long form fiction. I love the character and I have plot lines for subsequent books ready to go that riff off my experiences in Russia, Mexico, Monte Carlo and Rome....all as a working photographer. The mix of real, everyday photography and the fictional co-story of spies, terrorists, random evil and professional pratfalls seems fun to me.
It's my hope that every single one of the thousands of daily readers of the blog will rush out and buy a copy as soon as the book goes live. I'm also planning to make the book available in paper.
A long winded explanation but I wanted you to know. And to push me back to work if you see me meandering around the web adding my opinions to various dead end forums instead of shackling myself to the desk in the basement of the Visual Science Lab and getting some damn work done.
I want to make Steve Pressfield proud and actually finish this. Save up your $9.99 and get ready.