The Ecstacy of the End

Bradley Verdell here.

You know the feeling: when you hand in your last exam of a semester or school year, walk out into the sunlight, and know the last challenge of many months’ work is over at last. At first you don’t know what to do with yourself. So many possibilities … For once you feel you have all the time in the world. Soon you will get wrapped up in new goals, get used to the feel of the next segment of life, but for a few precious days there is that afterglow. The future is bright and open to anything. For the first time in a long time, the present is so calm.

I remember turning in my final paper of my final class in university, the last thing on my checklist before graduating. The only matter on my horizon was moving my things out of my dormitory sometime in the weeks to follow. What a day that was. University finished. The afternoon involved mini-golf at one point and breakdancing later that night.

We’ve all been there, usually by necessity. The great part about being a writer is that I get to create more days like that. I can give myself that feeling again. Whenever I finish the long project of writing a book, I get to taste that sublime relief all over again.

Recently I finished a novel tentatively titled The Fourth Warlock which I hope to publish in 2016. I have been so tranquil, so relaxed, and so uncaring about everything for about a week now. I know the crash is coming. The let down and emptiness as I come back into balance will be tough.

But right now, I can go to the coffee shop and not feel I have to work as hard as possible the whole time I’m there. I don’t have to think, “I’m so close. So close. Gotta get this done. Don’t stop, we’re nearly there. Gotta make this session count.”

Now I can sip my drink in total relaxation, write a blog post, tinker with other stories and ideas, do some research, and just let the clouds float by.

I’ve also been thinking about how I should celebrate. I’ll do something special when a free weekend comes along. Maybe I’ll go clay shooting, or maybe I’ll take a camping trip. I need to think about it. But having that kind of dilemma on my mind is a nice break from over-analyzing every aspect of a plot, worrying about holes or problems.

So writers out there, if you’re in the middle of a project, living in the grind of getting that idea out a few thousand words at a time, take heart. Remember the prize is worth it. The prize isn’t money or fame or seeing your book for sale. For me the prize is knowing that I can tackle a huge obstacle, like a marathon or a dissertation, and finish it. I can whittle down a monstrous task. I can complete the journey step-by-step without distraction or giving up. True self-esteem, for me at least, comes from that: doing what you love, getting better at it, and not giving up until you have something to show for it. When other challenges arrive in life, you get to say, “Come on now, I started and finished a novel that took __ months. I can handle this.”

That’s a reward no one can take from you, not to mention the book that you created that will be there for the rest of your life. I’m savoring it now, and I know from experience that though the afterglow will fade, that new note added to my life history that reads “finished another 130,000 word novel” will bring me satisfaction for the rest of my life. Unlike something bought, I’ll grow even fonder of it as time goes by.

I’ve often said that novel writing is the marathon of the arts, with something like painting or poetry nearer to the hundred-meter dash. Short stories or playwriting strike me as sort of the 1600 meter. Writing that story in your head is a painful process, but the relief when it’s over is the more for it. That’s one more reason, if writing appeals to you, to do it.

To everyone who has read any of my work, I have to say a big thank you. You give me invaluable motivation to keep doing it. Thanks to your encouragement, I get to experience this wonderful rush again … and hopefully again soon. Thank you for pushing me into this state of bliss.


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