Monday, February 9, 2015

The Finish Line

Sometimes, in life, we become so focused on the day-to-day challenges that we wiz right past finish lines without even realizing it. Each lifetime goal has mile markers that we roll through until we reach the end. But by the time we get there, we're on to the next goal and, sometimes, reaching our original end point feels more like mile marker than an mountain we've scaled. Writing a book is a lot like that.

I always start out with a character. Who is this person? What are they looking for? How did they get into the position she or he is currently in? When I get a good sense of my character, I start thinking about their other half. Which can be hard because it has to be honest. I've liked all my characters, but I haven't loved them. There are heroes and heroines I've written who never would've worked for me. Sure, I would've been friends with all of them.... Maybe not Isaac. His world and his position in it kind of scares me. But he's the kind of guy you could call at midnight and he'd be there to help out. So, yes, I've liked them all. But I wouldn't have been able to find my happily ever after with all of them. And that's okay. I don't write my story. I write theirs.

Then comes the story. What are they looking for in life? What do they need to find in order to grow and become the best person they can be? Sometimes this is solving the entire problems of a universe and other times it's moving on from a death of a loved one. Neither story or conflict is more important. They are the problems we deal with. Some problems may feel larger when you're looking at them from afar, but when your love has died there isn't any problem that is bigger to you. That person was your life. Saying goodbye is as devastating as finding out your entire government is corrupt and taking that corruption on.

When the story is done, it's a milestone but it's not the end. Then comes submission, contracts, edits, and more edits. And, by the time the story is being released, I'm on to the next story. Release days are always a celebration but I don't think I pause long enough to really appreciate when they come. And it's not just writing. Life tends to be the same. We don't celebrate our finish lines enough. We're too busy looking ahead to the next finish line to really appreciate what's happened.

As soon as we graduate high school we're looking forward to that job or to college. When we get married we're looking toward the honeymoon or toward all the paperwork that needs to be filled out. When I had my children, all I could think about was how I could possibly keep them alive for the next eighteen years and all the things that we were going to have to get through together.

Yes, each finish line is the start line to some new adventure. I'm not saying we should stop. We'd never get anywhere if we did. But I do think we should take a moment and really look at everything we've set our minds to and how far we've come from time to time. Just like the hero or heroines, I think we'd all be amazed at how many challenging finish lines we've crossed without even really realizing it. They don't all have to be world changing. Some mornings, just getting out of bed should be celebrated.

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