Paranoia, Planes and the Bigger Picture

Hawaii from the Air

Airplanes freak me out.  It’s not that I think they are going to drop out of the air or even that they might explode; it’s more like a building certainty that SOMETHING will go wrong as soon as I am locked away in the cabin.  There is no rational evidence behind these fears at all.  It’s just a paranoia of mine (of which I have many).  Bleary-eyed and cold from the jarring trip through security, I am always searching for some sort of sign that will tell me “Lauren, get off the plane.  It’s going to implode when you buckle your seatbelt.”  But, of course, that never happens.

Instead, I find my seat and begin eating mints like a crazy person, because this is calming.  When the engines rev up for take off, I can’t help but close my eyes.  Are the wings still in tact?  Is that a new kind of whirring I hear?  Possibility is the enemy of paranoia at times like this.  Teeth clenched, hands clamped to the armrests I can barely breathe.  Inevitably, the plane always takes off.  Sure, there are lots of horrible things that could happen, but they never do.  It is only when we are rising upwards that I find my courage to look down at my departure and take in the sights below.

Thinking about the views from an airplane got me thinking about my habits as a writer.  Often, when I am stuck on a piece, I close the file—I might print it out first—but then I put it away.  There doesn’t seem to be much closure in this act of “filing,” so why do I do it?  I used to tell myself that it was so I could start a new project.  Recently, I’ve been thinking that instead of simply putting away stagnant thoughts, I need to try and finish them.  I guess you could say it’s a little bit like opening my eyes in those last moments of ascent: if you keep your eyes closed for the whole time you miss the bigger picture.  And if I am going to write truthfully, I will have to see first what the work has become before I can see where it will go next.

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Unfinished Business: How Do You Know When It’s Time to Move On?

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I’m starting another novel today.  For some reason, it just felt right.  Maybe it’s the fact that my other novel and I need some space.  Draft two, which is a drastic change from its original form is good—not where I want it to be just yet, but I feel like it is on the road to being a good read.  One day, when it is all grown up and (hopefully) published, I can imagine it soaking up the sun on some beach as some lady reads it…or perhaps it will become a matchmaker at a Laundromat where two lost souls discover that they are both reading my book.  Happily ever after will obviously ensue.  I could fantasize all day about the possibilities, but I wouldn’t get anything done.  So instead, I force myself to put away that manuscript (because right now we don’t have anything to say to each other) and pick up the pen again.  I don’t have a story for you today, because I don’t think that there is an outright answer to the question I am going to ask.  Also, a story about writing a story might just be a little too meta for so early in the day.

Instead, my question for you is this:

How do you know when it is the right time to move on to another project?  Do you wait until it has been perfected or do you let the ideas simmer and start a new project in the meantime?