I think most creative people have something that I call a Forever Project — a project that, despite its audacity and seeming impossibility, simply will not put itself to bed. A project that comes creeping back into your consciousness when you sit down for a break from “real work.” A project that is hard to imagine actually embarking on, but whose mental cost of abandonment is far too high to even consider. A project that you’d totally do if you had the time, and the money, and the talent, and the…
– John Biesnecker, The joys of having a Forever Project
I have a Forever Project. I am writing my second novel. I’ve been working on it off again, on again in one form or another, using this software or that one since the late 1990s. Before that, back in the ’80s I had my first novel going, but after fifteen years or so of dreaming about it, writing around on it, restructuring it, writing around some more, I saved it to a diskette and then I moved halfway across the world.
Thanks to my Forever Projects I have learned a couple of importantances about me and my creativity.
Lesson 1: Whoa, Nelly, Careful with Those Outlines
Having read all about how super easy it is to write a novel (really, your dog could do it) after you have a complete and detailed outline, I set-to like a good little author. I spent hours thinking and sketching with words over and through the hills and valleys of my characters lives. I plotted and found holes in my plot and then I found ways to fill those holes. I found themes in my notes and worked them out more deeply. Really, I spent a couple of years on this. It occupied my thoughts while washing dishes and during my ninety minute commute, entertaining me right into The Zone. How does the subconscious autopilot get us safely to our destinations?
After awhile it was time to begin writing in earnest. To flesh out exactly which seventy thousand words I would need to become a New York Times Bestselling author. But it turned out to be all blah, blah, blah and he said, she said.
Oh. My. God. I never thought writing a novel would be this boring.
I learned that if all the problems are solved and all the decisions made until there aren’t any questions left, well, as far as I’m concerned, there’s no reason to write the story anymore. My curiosity, quenched by outlining, the mauses came, they saw and they said: Ho hum.
Since then, I’ve thought a lot about why I want to write a novel. What is it that caught me by the dream machine when I was a kid? And I guess I have to admit that I’m not driven to write, but I am driven to solve creatively. Today, writing is my chosen way to explore that drive deeply but it’s not exclusive. Thanks to my Forever Project, I found my freedom to supplement or extend the dream of writing with any other medium when I feel called to it.
So here we are again, bumping up against the question: Will I ever finish my second novel, my current Forever Project? Maybe. The drive to solve creatively must be creatively solved every day.