Writing a theory of drama’s been a goal since the late teenage years. I’m forty now. It’s been like a long distance run. The last major intellectual hurdle was cleared this afternoon. So, if we’re going to compare writing with long distance running, it’s the moment where the Boston Marathon runner gets over Heartbreak Hill. While Heartbreak Hill isn’t the steepest hill out there, it’s location, location, location. It’s after the 20th mile right before the finish. Runners are usually pretty tuckered out by then. Not that I’ve experienced it. The longest I usually go for is 10k (which is roughly 6 miles) and I’m pretty tuckered out by that! But writing the book has sure been like a marathon. Looking back, the preface was written way back in 2010. So, by clearing the last major intellectual hurdle, it should all be downhill from here!
Finish Line Psychology
So there’s some odds and ends to tie up. The last hurdle was differentiating between ex-ante and ex-post arts. Ex-ante and ex-post arts? What are those? Well, those are my terms for backwards and forwards looking arts. Comedy and tragedy are ex-ante: they look forwards into the unknown. History and philosophy are ex-post arts because they look backwards. History was easy to classify as ex-post because there’s no history of the future. Philosophy was more of a challenge. I thought for a few weeks I would have to go through the philosophical corpus (which is tough slogging) until a solution presented itself. Thankfully, an easy solution came to mind: philosophy must be ex-post because it is based on interpreting experiences which have already happened.
All there’s left to do now is to compare and contrast tragedy and comedy. Unless there’s some hidden hobgoblin I can’t see, this should be straightforward. A page should do it. Maybe less than a page. And then after that, final words on the consolation that the various genres offer. Another page for that. AND THEN I AM DONE LIKE DINNER!
But the interesting thing about finish line psychology is that I seem to be slowing down as I approach the finish line! Where’s the finishing kick runners are famous for? It’s like a part of me has been living with writing this thing for so long that I don’t want to finish! Could it be? Of course, even when I finish and type out ‘THE END’, it’s not really done. Then there’s the editing. I’ll go back, reread the whole thing (it’s been so long I can hardly remember the first few chapters), and delete about half of it. A lot of the time when I’m writing it feels like it’s something awesome but then looking back on it, it isn’t so great. I want the book to be short rather than long. Crisply argued rather than densely argued. I value my readers’ time. In fact its a privilege to have someone read your work.
So even when I’m done it’s not done. In fact the whole process of seeing this thing come to print after the draft is ready might be as hard as producing the draft in the first place! That’s what the self-publishing ‘how-to’ books have been telling me. So why is this finish line psychology slowing me down?
Maybe it has been the routine of writing. Once I finish it means that I’ll be reading the manuscript and beginning the rewriting process. Maybe I’m afraid of doing this. Maybe there’s something in there that I won’t like. That must be it. But good thing I read the War of Art. The book is all about situations such as this. It says that the fear is the ‘Resistance’ talking. The ‘Resistance’ is the built in negativity that prevents us from doing stupid things but also prevents us from going on to do great things. The important thing now is to get over this finish line psychology. Time for the final kick. Faster and faster towards the finish line. There’s one thing worse than writing a bad book: not finishing. But what am I saying? It’s going to be great!
Until next time, I’m Edwin Wong and I have been Doing Melpomene’s Work now for a long time.