Writer Moments: The Tipping Point

In any endeavor there are magical moments.

There’s the brilliant beginning: full of purpose and brimming with the righteous light of conviction, you take your first wobbly-kneed steps into the great unknown. Sure, your steps are uncertain and the path is dark, but you move forward anyway, driven by the cattle prod of motivation that drove you to pick up the torch in the first place. Every problem is just another step in the road. Every question, a mystery full of wonder and delight. Every setback serves only to motivate you further, and every accomplishment is a furious gale beneath your wings, buoying you toward the heavens. This is the honeymoon period, and no obstacle you face is too large, no challenge too stout, no door too locked. (Can a door be too locked? Don’t stop me now!)

There’s the elated ending: exhausted beyond the limits of what you once thought possible, you stumble across the finish line and collapse into a smelly, grumpy heap. The imperfections, the wouldas and the couldas, the endless desert of possibilities, all lie like the discarded husks of cicadas in your wake, as useless and irrelevant to you now as a screen door on a battleship. The journey is over, the battle won, and all that matters for the moment is the whistling glory of the wind in your ears, the sweet cocktail of accomplishment and fulfillment served with a job done. (Not necessarily well done.) The dragons are slain, the damsels are rescued, and all is right in the world. This is when you lay back, have a cigarette (no you don’t have a cigarette, smoking is banned everywhere in the world, what’s wrong with you??), and bathe in the vapors of completion.

But there’s another moment that doesn’t get nearly as much attention, and it’s maybe more important than the others. It’s a moment when you’re not finished yet, when the road stretches on and on in front of you and in back. When you’ve left home so far behind that you can’t even remember the last time you were there, but the end is still so far in front of you that it might as well be on the moon.

It’s a tipping point.

This is the moment when you aren’t yet at your goal, but you can look back on the path you’ve walked and see the arc of the gains you’ve made up until now. You aren’t running marathons yet, but you booked a 15-miler this past weekend. Your novel isn’t finished yet, but your characters and the action are all poised for the grand finale. Your kid still needs a diaper to get through the night, but you haven’t had to clean crusted-on poop out of the creases in his crotch for over a month.

This is a moment almost sublime in its transcendence. At this stage, perhaps more than any other, you feel the gravity of both extremes — the beginning, when the task seemed impossible, and the end, when it will all have been worth it — but you know, deep down, that short of an asteroid smashing into the planet and obliterating all life, you’ll finish the thing you’ve been working on for months if you can just keep at it for a little bit longer.

This is a moment to be relished, to be savored, like the last drop of a Dr. Pepper. This is a moment to pat yourself on the back just a little bit while girding your loins for the home stretch. The air is still up here; still but full of static, the twenty minutes of quiet before the hurricane hits.

Because, make no mistake, you’re not done. The finishing is not for the faint of heart. You will be chewed up. You will be spit out. You will suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

But if you’ve come this far, you can make it through.

This post brought to you by me reaching the 75% mark of my novel today.