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I’m Not Done Yet! Or am I?


Am I done with this novel? Is it good enough? When can I say I’m truly done?

As a writer, I always ask myself these questions. But the fact is, one can never say a novel is truly done. There’s no benchmark. There’s no checklist. There’s just me… and my novel. I’m the judge of when it’s complete. And yet, I cannot judge. I wonder if the extra rounds of editing would make my book worse. I oscillate between editing again or leaving it as it is. I don’t know what to do! Help! The uncertainty drives me crazy. But recently, I’ve come to a realisation.

Whenever I edit my novels, I mostly dislike what I read. I’m rarely happy with the text before me. I always think my story sucks – that I’m not a good writer – and I know I’m not alone. But in the midst of that, there’ll be a moment in time – a second of contentment – that hits me like an unforeseen kiss. It’s rare. It doesn’t happen as frequently as I hope it would. And it only transpires after I’ve grown tired with my work. This emotion comes after my self-loathing is replaced with fatigue.

Have you ever felt worn out from all the editing? Have you told yourself, “I’m done. I’m not touching this again. I’ve done all I can”? This brief moment of unexpected tranquility is how I know I’m done. Because… it only sweeps past me after my final round of editing. And by ‘final’, I mean I decided it would be the ‘final round’ before even starting work. How convenient, right?

You see, subconsciously, we know when we’re done. We can sense it. It’s an innate ability. Like how animals can sense an earthquake, it’s a gut feeling we writers have. But the two things holding us back – driving us to spend years on a single book – are doubt and fear. We doubt we have what it takes. We fear we’re not good enough. So we keep at it, on the same piece of writing, not realising that by working on the same thing over and over again, we’re not growing. We’ve boxed ourselves. We’re unable to learn by exploring other stories within us. We squeeze our creativity, then question why we’re not good enough. And when that moment of contentment hits – when we’ve come to believe we’ve given our all – we quickly brush it aside. We disregard the prompt that’s telling us to stop. And we repeat the vicious cycle of wondering, questioning, and not knowing when it’s done.

I, personally, don’t believe we should work on a single piece of work for years. I know I say this with The Slave Prince being a novel I worked on for 3 years, but I wrote plenty of other work during those 3 years too. And by honing my craft, I’m able to better The Slave Prince as I find my own style and voice. Am I done with The Slave Prince now? Yes. Very done. I’ve given my all. And there’s only so much I can do where I am, right now.

Moving forward, I’m ready to dive into new worlds. I’m ready to challenge my creativity and imagination. And I know I cannot do that if I’m stuck on the same book. Don’t let the question of ‘done’ stop you from moving forward. Because in reality, we’re never done. We will always grow, and we need to let ourselves grow.

So take it from me. The next time a wave of surprising satisfaction washes up your shore, after your ‘final round’ of editing, ask yourself these:

Am I done with this novel? Yes. Is it good enough? No. When can I say I’m truly done? Never.

You don’t have to publish your novel tomorrow. But you most certainly need to start writing something new. Only then can you free yourself from a curse, so cruel, it robs you of your much needed ‘happily ever after’.

The End.

 
4 Comments

Posted by on March 23, 2017 in Writing Journey

 

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Dark Skies

darkskies

The rain fell like the bursting of a dam. There was no rhythm to the heavy drops, but there was thunder to the unsynchronized falling of rain. The windows in my room vibrated softly as the strong wind pushed against them. And that made me wince.

I never liked heavy rains. They scared me. The clouds always stayed dark after a heavy downfall, and unlike a drizzle in the afternoon, the sun never came up immediately.

There is just this feeling of uncertainty and worry when it came to heavy rains. You have to be homebound and if you are on the road, you can barely see. If you are walking with an umbrella, you know you are in a battle to stay dry as the wind sends your only protection scrunching.

Nobody would dance in such a rain. No one would leave the windows open for the wind. Not a single person would leave their house, and plans were better off cancelled.

I say all these as I have experienced them. But unfortunately, this heavy rain might be my last. It fitted the feelings I have right now; the cold, foreboding, and unstable situation that rested on my shoulders. Not once have I related so well to the weather than right now.

The dark sky, almost like the night sky, was the epitome of fear. Don’t believe me? Lie on your bed, look out your window, and don’t fall asleep. Watch the trees fight the wind, hear the wind chimes clash in loud cries, and feel the cold seeping into your skin. Are you afraid now?

I’m sure we all have experienced fear before. Fear alike the heavy rain, but much more real. These experiences are never easy to forget.

I, myself, remember my first encounter with fear. I was seven. I was at the swimming pool and my float was too big for me. Slipping through the hole and sinking, while my ears muffled the world around me, was a strange and scary feeling. I remember the cold water, the crushing in my chest, and my desperate fight to survive. I remember not dying, but fear still won. I never swam again.

Another encounter I had with fear was my final exam in university. I studied all I could but when the paper sat right in front of me, my mind went blank. The cold examination room, the loud ticking of the clock, and the words my mind could not wrap around, made me scared. I did not fail, but fear still won. I’m constantly struggling to believe in myself and I don’t know why.

Thinking back, my university encounter was not even up to par with my most recent one. A couple of years ago, I lost my job and I struggled to find a new one. Everyone shut their doors and there was not even a window to peep through. The sight of my bills terrified me, the sound of rejection resonated within me, and the nights where the chills of reality greeted me, made me want to run and hide under my bed. I was like a child, afraid of the bogeyman that was out to get me. Thankfully I did not go bankrupt, but fear still won. I have never been more worried about my future since then.

Honestly, after I got through that mess, I thought I had seen all the faces of fear. Of course I was wrong. I was wrong not because I’ve not experienced them all, but because I don’t know the fear I was about to face.

When it came, it hit me so hard that my hands shook, my insides bubbled, and my head started to spin. Was I afraid of death or was I afraid of uncertainty? What was my fear? I never had the answers.

Today, I laid in my bed staring at the rain. Chills ran down my spine as the beeping of the monitor grew louder and louder. I was hoping for the rain to stop, and for the dark sky to clear up, but it looked like it would not do so anytime soon. I was hoping for a glimpse of a rainbow, or a hint of hope, but the world was refusing to calm my soul.

I was not ready for what I had to face. I was scared, fearful, terrified, and paralyzed. Where was my courage? I wondered silently.

Briefly pulling my eyes away from the madness outside, I turned to stare at the ceiling. I found my eyes fixated on the ceiling light; the light that was so… stable. There was no flicker when the clouds thundered, and it kept my darkened room lit.

It was then that I realized something. There was a way to beat fear… and that, was hope. You don’t need a sign to have hope, you just need to believe there is hope. Even in the darkest places, there would be light. The strong stable glare of warmth is not shaken by the cold winds and tremors.

Hope was a powerful weapon, one that could defeat the daggers of fear. And for once in my life, I actually tried to let hope breathe. I did not have much of a choice anyway, as my future was uncertain. But with a little hope, I know I stand a chance, however small it was.

It’s true, they say, fear cripples. I have been crippled in different areas of my life unable to truly live it. And now, I’m about to go through an operation where my chance of survival is the same as my chance of death. But even so, I have decided not to let fear rob my last conscious thought.

When my doctor finally came in to see me, I took one last look at the world outside my window. This time, I was full of hope to see the clear blue skies again.

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This short story is self explanatory and the question it raises is simple. Are you living in fear? Was there an event or a situation that has crippled you? If so, it’s time to let a little hope breathe.

No matter what you are afraid of, rejection, disappointment, loss, hardships, and even death, remember that hope is always there. You just have to see it and acknowledge its presence. Finding the light in darkness is not easy, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any. Sometimes it takes faith, other times it takes courage, but believing there is hope changes the way you look at things. When you see things in a different light, it’s no longer the end of the world.

I know this story is pretty simple, without strange analogies like my previous ones, but I hope it conveyed the message well enough. So, do let me know what you think of it in the comments below!

© 2013 Jeyna Grace

(For more short stories, click HERE)

 
15 Comments

Posted by on October 17, 2013 in Original Works

 

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The Root

The Root

Ever since I was a child, I knew I was different. I could see further, hear sharper, run faster, and I had a sixth sense that made me clairvoyant. When the other children knew I was different, they treated me like a freak. They never included me in their games and they always teased me for my abilities. But when I got older, I did not have to face them anymore as I was sent off to a special school.

This school was high up in the mountains, and it ran along the borders of my country. I could see the vast green world beyond the wall, and the grand city behind it. There were suspension bridges that swayed gently with the breeze, and wooden houses with floorboards that never creaked.

This special school gave me the opportunity to be accepted, because everyone was like me. Since the day of my arrival, I’ve made more friends that I would have ever imagined. I was also trained in all areas of combat and weaponry. The mentors in that school told us that we were extraordinary and destined for greatness.

Despite it sounding cool, our training was not easy. There was blood, sweat and tears, but we all knew that those made us who we were. We were warriors and defenders of our country; an elite force that swore to protect at all cost. It only took me a few classes to grasps the importance of my talents and skills. And my destiny drove me to excellence.

After a few years of moving up the ranks and closing in on my graduation, I became so certain of my future. I was secretly planning to become a leader and to win countless battles, but my plans became no longer relevant at the sight of death.

It was a sunny morning. I was with a friend at a garden on one of the mountain peaks. This was my favourite training ground as the clouds were only a few feet above my head, and the air was light and thin. The two of us had decided to use our free time to train on our sword work, and we swore not to spare each other any bruises or cuts.

As our thin swords clashed, the training was starting on perfect ground. It was only until midway through that I saw a glimpse of something frightfully real. It was so quick, yet I found myself gasping for air on all fours after it was over. My friend asked me what my sixth sense had shown me, but it was impossible to speak as I could still feel the cold pain in my chest.

That night, I could not sleep. Every time I closed my eyes, I saw it and felt it again. The dark cold blade sliding into my chest and draining my soul made me sweat at the memory of it. It was impossible to rest my body when my mind was racing for answers. And it was then that I decided to seek the counsel of my mentor the following day.

My mentor was an old warrior. The scars on his body told you that he had fought more battles than the salt you have eaten. He was very wise, and often times he left me dumbfounded. That day was no different.

When I told my mentor my vision, he said, “The branch does not support the root, Jeon-Sa, but the root supports the branch.”

I had no idea what he meant. I left with hidden anger as the pomegranate tea began drying up my mouth. Seeking his counsel did nothing to calm my nerves, instead it just confused me even more.

As the rest of the day carried on, it did not get any better for me. I ended up with more bruises than before because my mind was not with my body. I was so disastrous that my teachers sent me to my room for meditation. Of course, I didn’t do any.

Alone in my room, I laid on my rattan and stared at the lantern hanging from the ceiling. The flame and the frame were so still that I longed to have such peace. I tried to pace my breathing to the flickering of the flame, but it did not silence the voices in my head.

Soon, my body became so stiff that I felt too tired to even raise a finger. When the bell signalling for dinner echoed down the hallway, I did not even bother to get up. I stayed completely still as my classmates entered their own rooms and blew out their lanterns. Mine was the only one still alive.

I thought I was going to lay like that the whole night through, but something happened. Hours after silence swept through the hallway, there was a tremor. The ground shook so hard that the lantern swayed madly and the fire went out in a puff. That was when I snapped out of my paralyzed state.

Shooting up into a sitting position, I heard people scrambling out their rooms. Finally, an external chaos matched the one inside of me. As I reached for my blades by the side of my mat, my room door slid open and a friend shouted, “We’re under attack!”

His words ended with the loud ringing of a bell that sent me straight to my feet. At that very moment, I knew this was it. My vision was about to become reality, and today was my last day. Fear crawled up my spine and my body refused to move. When the hallways became silence once more, I forced myself out the door.

Slowly slinging my blades across my shoulders, my legs took the lead. At the far end of the hallway, the double wooden doors were flung wide open, and I could see what was coming our way.

Black dragon banners were raised among the army in black. Their horses took the lead with their riders shouting their battle cry. Then, rising from behind the army were dragons, big black fiery dragons that screeched deafeningly in the early morning sky.

My throat had dried up by then and my head was screaming for me to turn back, but my legs kept walking forward. I could not fight my own body, and by the time I reached the doors something clicked.

As the sky started to change into streaks of orange, I began to understand my mentor’s philosophical words. All these time I trusted my skills to increase my talents, when I should be trusting my talents to boost my skills.

I was in fear because I doubted my skill, and I did not understand that my real abilities lied within my talent. I should be trusting what was in me instead of what I could see in front of me.

When the root and the branch finally made sense, I was ready. No, I was not ready to die but I was ready to live to see another day. As I pulled my blades from their sheaths, I have never been more ready to live my destiny.

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We all have talents, despite what we think. Some of us can draw, some of us can sing, and some of us can write. Whatever our talents are, we have to remember not to judge ourselves based on our skill and our performance.

Indeed, being able to perform and do well is a good way to gage your level and skill. But, if we constantly judge ourselves based on our skill we would find ourselves disappointed. When we are disappointed in our lacking, we tend to shrink back in fear of failure and rejection. That is quick sand to loosing your passion, dreams, and never uncovering your hidden gifting.

So, wherever you are in skill, always believe in yourself and the talent your were born with. We are all created for greatness, don’t be your own downfall when you face the dragons!

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my short story. As always, let me know what you think in the comment box below!

© 2013 Jeyna Grace

(For more short stories, click HERE)

 
16 Comments

Posted by on July 25, 2013 in Original Works

 

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