January 22, 2020

The Angst and the Ecstasy of Writing

Janine Pineo Illustration

Janine Pineo Illustration

• By John F. Chisholm •

I’m fighting through the final chapters of “Doug,” another novel. When books reach this stage, they consume me. I struggle to convince myself that I’ll be so tremendously relieved when I finally close the covers and say, “Done.”

That’s a lie. I might as well admit it.

Because in fact, this is the best part of writing; bringing everything together at the end, checking, rereading, rewriting, polishing, adding the finishing touches, enjoying the surprises that even you, the author, never suspected when you started out. You do all that and more, ensuring that everything you wanted to say, show or infer has been accomplished. But no only that, you also have to deny the fear that you might have served your characters better if you’d been more experienced, written at a higher level or imagined more fully. The process sets you against yourself as you struggle to become more than you can be.

That, in turn, is the highest form of living anyone has ever experienced, regardless of their endeavor.

It is intense, there’s no denying it. It’s also the essence of what consumes me. Because way, deep down, I know that as soon as “Doug” is written and this chapter of my life closed, I’ll miss all the characters terribly.


Writing a novel is playing God. Intoxicating but bittersweet. Where did your efforts end and the characters take over for themselves? You may have invented, defined and fine-tuned the entire cast but you grow ever more attached to them as the book progresses. They, in turn, come into their own. Then you reach the end, stop, quit cold-turkey and deny that these people were ever a part of you.

What nonsense! Even the villains will be missed. After all, they were such good villains.

But I carry on. Forgive me. All writers are neurotic.

You bet, I am no exception.

Now go figure. Please. Then write, tell me the answers.

Because I’m filled with the angst of my own imagination.