Writing is an act of faith.
How else could you keep going on the same path for months — possibly even years — until you get to that elusive “the end,” knowing that at any point in the process, you could conceivably be driven off the road?
When I was in college, I took a class in Catholic Theology (I went to a Jesuit university, so we had lots of amazing classes in this area), and one of the terms I learned — and never forgot — was “eschatological,” which can be summed up in one brief, but potent phrase: what will be and what will become. It’s a description of God’s love, and to help us grasp the concept, our professor gave us the example of marriage as an illustration of it. When a couple is married, their marriage is something that is (meaning, it exists today, in the here and now), but because it is also continuing to exist into the future, it will also become. The term is meant to describe something that exists today and doesn’t really have an end.
Even though there is an end (eventually — so they tell me! :)) to working on a novel, at times, it can often feel like it will go on forever. After the first draft, there will be multiple revisions. There will be copy edits and proof reading. Regardless of whether you have it traditionally published or self-published, there will be also be other people editing it. Other people proof-reading. And then, when it finally, FINALLY is ready for the printing stage, there will be probably always be things you’ll find, things you’ll be tempted to fix.
How long this entire process lasts will depend on the writer, but for many of us, especially with our first few attempts at this beast called novel-writing, it could easily take 2-3 years. That may not be a long time in the grand scheme of things, but believe me, it feels very long on this end of that timeline. It feels very eschatological, even though I know there will be a time when it will be finished and I can officially say, “I’ve written this novel, and now I’m moving on to the next.”
And that’s where the faith comes in. Because until I get to that finish line, I will always have that little voice inside me that whispers, “What if you don’t finish? What if real life — the day job, the obligations, the commitments, family and friends — takes over and drives you off the road for good? What if you do get to the end, but no one cares? What if everyone hates it?” When you begin working on a novel, it’s because you believe, deep in your gut, that the idea living inside you is one that will resonate with others. That the people and world you bring life to will get others as excited about them as you are every time you get to sit down and write about them. And in the end, it is this belief — this strong intuition that the work will be worth it — that supplies the necessary faith to keep going.
Yes, there is the chance that something may happen between now and then (however far into the future then may be) to derail me. Yes, there is a chance that I may actually get to the finish line and write the damn thing — and then no one will think it’s any good. But there is also the chance that I will fly past that finish line and that this will connect with a large, passionate group of people. I have to believe the chance of the latter happening is more likely. I have to. Because if I don’t believe it, I won’t be able to keep going.
And keeping at it is the only way I’ll be able to finish this.