April 24, 2017

‘Finished’ Is a Relative Term

• By John F. Chisholm •

A few days ago, I finished Doug, a novel which occupied my mind, day and night, for more than 2 1/2 years.

The book averaged out to 123 words a day, plus or minus.  I took weekends off and engaged in other literary projects, too.  Still, that seems a discouragingly low production count for something that’s affected me so strongly.

In addition, I say, “Finished” but the reality is there’s still more to do:
First, I’ll reread it, correcting and editing along the way.

Janine will take it next.  She’s an expert at punctuation, spelling and grammar.  She’s already been over it once, piecemeal.

My daughter has a copy, too.  She knows me so well, she’s uniquely qualified to point out where my cultural and intellectual bias trips the progression of the story.

But, truth to tell, when all Janine and Kim’s corrections are made, the book still won’t be finished.  Not really.  I’ll print out six additional copies and ship them to eminently qualified and highly literate friends.

Gradually, over the next two or three months, I’ll receive return commentary, verdicts and sage advice.  I’ve already left my day job.

Likely reference to any safety net will be omitted.  (My friends are kind but truthful.  That’s a tough spot.  Those two aren’t always happy companions.)
Perhaps then the book will truly be finished.  Not now.  Still, I know from experience, this is a critical milestone.  This is when the breakup is realized.  It’s coming.  There’s no denying it.  It’s incredibly wrenching.

Because all the fore-mentioned says nothing about letting go of Doug, the lead character, his friends, compatriots and enemies.  You have to understand:  I’ve been Doug, Jeff, Lynn, Allison and numerous other characters for so long that I can no longer separate myself from any of them easily.  I hear them.  They converse in my head at odd hours in the morning following sleepless nights.

Schizophrenia is the obvious diagnosis.

Unfortunately the treatment, the gradual separation, them from me, over the next three months as the book truly ends is lonely and wistful, filled with what might have been written.  Alas!  That darn author never gets anything right.

In fact there are times ― this is one of them ― when the disease appears far preferable to the cure.  Especially if it allows continuing relationships that have become valuable over the past 2 1/2 years.