Finishing

We are all going to die. Some sooner than others.

Earlier this year, or maybe it was last year, I can’t remember, I came across this post by Tim Urban.

If you don’t want to click-through and read the entire thing, here’s the gist of it:

There are, more or less, 52 weeks in a year. Given a life span of 90 years, that means any given human has about 4,680 weeks to live their life (assuming they make it to 90).

Four thousand, six hundred, and eighty.

Seems like a lot, doesn’t it?

When I first read Mr. Urban’s article, where he maps out those weeks in graphical form and highlights famous milestones and then posits – how are YOU spending those weeks, I realized with a gasp and thud in my chest, more than half of my weeks are gone.

Gone.

I’m over 45 years of age. More specifically, I’m about to turn 47, which means, if I’m lucky, I only have 2,236 weeks left.

Two thousand, two hundred, and thirty-six.

Doesn’t seem like so much any more does it?

Let’s consider how long it takes to finish a novel. For some, less than a year or a full year at most. So, let’s say 25 to 52 weeks. That’s nothing! A prolific writer of my age can expect to crank out 40 to 80 books before they keel over.

But it takes me much longer to finish a book. Hell, the last time I actually finished a novel was…what five years ago? So, since that time, 260 weeks have passed. Two hundred and sixty WASTED weeks. Weeks I will not get back.

The novel I did complete took me roughly two years (or 104 weeks). It isn’t a great novel. It is a rather bad novel, which is why it has not seen the light of day, but it is done. It sits in the bottom of my office file cabinet, taking up space.

Anyway, if I was better disciplined, in the 260 weeks since finishing that terrible novel, I could have potentially finished two more (admittedly bad) novels. I mean, I’ve been writing fairly consistently during that time, but I just haven’t actually finished anything.

Though I have started several good stories, with each I have languished at about the half-way point and abandoned the story to try another one. My excuses are:

  • It’s not good enough.
  • I don’t have the talent the story needs.
  • My writing sucks.
  • My characters are stupid.
  • I’m stupid.

Each week that goes by, each month, each year, I see my dream of writing a novel slowly recede into the future – a finite future. I only have so many weeks left – and we know a significant amount of those weeks will be spent sleeping, right? So, I cannot keep spinning my wheels. It’s now or…later and there may not be a later. (Over-dramatic? Maybe, but check out this death graphic.)

I can’t second guess myself anymore. So what if my novels are crap and no one will read them? There are a lot of bad* novels out there. And you know what? They are finished! Some author accomplished their goal before their finite weeks ended and they can die happy.

I want to die happy.

To that end, I’m doing NaNoWriMo next month. The goal is to finish the novel I’m working on.

I WILL finish it. Whether it takes 50,000 words or 100,000.

Dare to join me in making the most of the weeks we have left?

If so, hook up with me. I’m ne_white on NaNoWriMo. If you are feeling especially bold, you can join the SFFWorld.com crew – sprinting every day in November – on MyWriteClub (N_E_White). I’ll post my intended schedule here (on this blog) and will Tweet right before I write on Twitter (@n_e_white) so you can join me if you’re around.

Until then, finish your stories.


*Bad is, of course, subjective. There are a lot of novels out there I consider bad that folks love. So, really, who am I to judge?

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12 thoughts on “Finishing

  1. I just had to go listen to that song from Rent.

    That being done, I’m still waffling on NaNo this year… I haven’t written a non-book-review word in a long time. But I did have that idea a few days ago… Hm…

  2. This could have been me posting this, Nila. We’re made of the same stock when it comes to half-mastery and worrying about writing crap. I don’t have any answers yet, but you’re certainly moving in the right direction by hammering away at your dream through NaNoWriMo. I won’t be participating this year, but I am currently working on revisions of a first draft I finished earlier this summer. Like you, I’m determined to publish something before those weeks reach a frightening level.

    I think we need to remember that it’s not the writing that’s the hard part — it’s the humbling of the ego and ignoring the negative voices in our head.

  3. I’ve been of the opinion for some time now that your assessment of your skills is considerably less honed than your actual skills are. The two *completed* short stories I’ve seen of yours since the start of the summer were both good, just to take the most recent examples to hand.

    Healthy self-criticism is just that, healthy, but your barometer needs a couple of taps to get the arrow pointing the right way. More sunshine, less clouds. Tap-tap!

  4. Congratulations on your courage to do NaNoWriMo! Your problem is finishing, mine is starting. (And I have many fewer weeks left than you.)

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