Obsessed with the “Means”

Niccolo Machiavelli

While digging through my files the other day, I found an old outline for a novel I had started crafting 4 years ago. It would have been my fifth and a follow up to my first and fourth, which were related. 

But I never wrote it because I got…well, side-tracked. I learned the hard way that there is quite a fine line between research for an idea and an obsession with it; I see now that my ability back then to navigate and balance on that line was lacking, to say the least.

It is possible, in these days, to find so much information on a given topic and to find so many people that know so much about any given topic that you begin to get a skewed perspective on it. You start to wonder, “if other people knew what these people know then things would be different. I need to learn more about this.”

It was all justifed in my mind by the destination: the story. But at some point the ends were lost in the means. And all of those people that think they know so much? I realized they are just as delusional as I was. In fact, I have little doubt that ending up like them would have been my ends if I had kept up my pursuit along those means.

Lucky for me, I moved on to my next creative outlet (music) and soon forgot about writing novels. Anyway, I had decided, 4 novels is enough and I wasn’t going to write any more of those monsters until I knew that the first 4 didn’t suck. Although I’m still not convinced of that, I have sold nearly 1000 copies of them.

So now, 4 years later, I dredge up the old idea and it’s asking to be tinkered with again. It beckons me and it is difficult to turn my back on it. I’m in a better place now – I think. Maybe I could bat around this subject matter again without getting completely consumed by it. Maybe I just needed separation to gain some perspective.

Maybe again I am starting to justify a means that I’d be foolish to think I could handle any differently.

About Yorick von Fortinbras

YvF is a writer, musician that stays sane by being creative while navigating the demands of life, looking for those holes where a spark can get through.
This entry was posted in Creativity, mind, Philosophy, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Obsessed with the “Means”

  1. Mnemosyne says:

    Interesting. I’ve always wanted to write a novel. About… anything! But I just couldn’t. I’ve tried so many different ways to get started but as per usual, life got in the way and my anthropomorphic creations always remained as a creation of mere pencil shavings on piece of lined paper. It never developed or grew into anything. I’m looking forward to the day I can easily sit down and make something more than just a string of words. {This is where I cue a joyful sigh that I still have the (slight) ability to blog without interference}
    ☮ & ♥


    • You really need a good 6 month to 1 year block where you can dedicate at least an hour or so each day or it’ll never get done. I used to write in the dark in my kids room as they went to bed. Guaranteed quiet.

      To start, I found myself writing an outline and fleshing out the pieces of the outline before I even knew I was going to write a book. Once you get that outline going, the juices flow and there’s no way you could ever stop. It’s not like I told myself “I’m going to write a novel” and just started writing. Perhaps some write like that but it isn’t what works for me.

  2. Bill B. says:

    Mnemosyne, YvK has the right of it: it’s not enough to want to do it, you have to set aside the time to do it. It doesn’t have to be much, but it does have to be time when you can just write. An hour is a good time-span to use: it gives you time to set up, settle in, and get going while still providing you time to get some writing in.

    There’s no one way of doing it that’s right. Several authors I know do it the way YvK does. They create their outline and work from that, going back to it and changing it as necessary as the story evolves. Others, like me, think about it, create a note file, then start writing. For us, the note file takes the place of the outline. Sometimes we even wind up creating what essentially winds up being an outline as we get ideas for coming chapters and jot them down so we don’t lose them. I lost a blog post I did about my process for writing so eventually I’ll re-write it somehow and post it to my blog, but the key point, from my perspective, is this: get it down. Whether you write it as an outline or start writing notes, you need to get it down. And there’s no way that’s going to happen unless you set aside the time to do it.

    If you have a good idea and really want to write your novel, you’ll take that first step and set aside the time. Maybe not daily at first, but once you do it you will be on your way and when the habit sets in, you’ll find yourself looking forward to that time when you get to write.

    And write for yourself, not for others. That way it stays fun rather than turning into work.

    Good luck!

    Yorik von Fortinbras, I hope you don’t mind my popping in here with this. It is your blog, after all, and this is perhaps not a typical “comment”. I know you’ll delete it if you think it’s over the bounds of decency. No problems there.

  3. Bill, I don’t mind at all – I appreciate your thoughts. Only thing I take offense to is the misspelling of my name ;+}

  4. campbell191203 says:

    I completely relate to what you wrote about becoming distracted by other projects. I have unfinished novels and short stories because I got distracted by my first love: Painting. This art form is relaxing, whereas writing can be stressful for me.

  5. MK Mercurio says:

    Your comment about getting lost in the research spoke to me. I know that when I am searching for something, it is much later, after I turn off my pc that I realize what my original mission was … oops!

    Thanks for sharing your story!– Marge

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