Sometimes, I get very excited about the Novel. I think about landing an agent who will adore the work more than she will her own children; inspiring a tense auction among three or more prominent publishers, where the winning bid will be somewhere in the seven digits (hey, it’s my dream, I can be as wild in my imaginings as I wanna be); climbing the New York Times Bestseller List, reaching #1 less than a month after publication; getting a guest gig on The Colbert Report; getting a call from Niki Caro about optioning the book’s film rights; seeing the actual, finished film up on the big screen, starring — ahem — Keanu Reeves.
Yeah, when I dream, baby, I dream big.
The problem, of course, is that I end up focusing so much on the product (which is what the Novel inevitably ends up as, in this scenarios, rather as being a work of literature in the loosest sense of the word), that I become self-conscious about the process, thinking too hard about each word, each page, until I’ve paralyzed myself into a state of, well, non-writing. Some people may refer to it as a fear of success, but the less forgiving part of myself will just call it what it is: a really self-destructive form of perfectionism that prevents you from taking any action at all for fear of failure. Why let the fear of success derail your dreams when the fear of failure does such a hell of a good job already, right?
So lately I’ve had to really steer myself away from such grand delusions and just focus on the work. I think my main character gets very annoyed when I start straying from that focus, as it inevitably means that I slowly start abandoning him in the pursuit of something else, namely the gratification of my own ego. And quite frankly, when your ego starts taking over your work, it’s no longer your voice but something else, something alien to your spirit, the original vision that called to you when you began writing the book. Whatever it may be, it’s not a good book anymore, and it’s best to wrestle it back under your control so that you can get back on track and write the damn book. Your characters will thank you, and your story will be all the better for it.