I had occasion on my writing getaway in Northern Ontario to watch Wonder Boys again. I’ve probably seen it about five or six times. Each time I find I identify with Michael Douglas’ character, Grady Tripp. No, I haven’t been involved with a coverup involving a dead dog, or Marylin Monroe’s stolen jacket. It’s to do with the theme of Tripp attempting to finish his second novel. He’s been writing for seven years. It’s all typed, single space and it’s reached 2612 pages. He can’t stop writing, can’t bring it to any sort of conclusion. It just keeps going.
In the same vein, I started work on a book in 2002. I kept working it and working it. Changing the beginning over and over and over. I’ve probably written three books worth of material just fiddling around with the same story. I was lost. It was a failure. And yet I couldn’t stop writing it. Every time I approached it, I’d start working away at some loose thread or tangent. I’d get lost in this endless morass. This went on for years. I finally put it away and actually quit writing altogether for a while. It was a horrible feeling. Even after quitting, I could feel the book pulling at my psyche. I liked the characters, the premise, and the setting. But it was a giant, shapeless quagmire. I knew that if I returned to work on it, I would get lost again in its trackless depths.
In Wonder Boys, (oh yeah, spoiler alert for an 18-year old movie) the character Tripp has to finally let go, his only copy of the manuscript is lost. All his work gets carried away on the wind.
I’ve decided to let go too. Returning to writing there’s temptation to work on that damned book again. And maybe someday I will. First I will complete a different one. I will show myself that I can.