We are all writers in a sense – coders write code, digital marketers write Facebook and E-Mail posts and an advocate writes legal proposals or notices. But this article aims to address those who write long form text in order to inform or educate or entertain – either by way of journalistic reports, enthusiastic essays or even casual book or movie reviews.
Both the segments have something to sell – some form of an idea, translated into its end forms. But the latter segment, I’ve found, needs more persistence if they are to be successful in their endeavor. We’ve all heard of “Writer’s block”, that excuse most authors offer up as an excuse to explain their laziness and/or procrastination. And there are a lot of articles on how to overcome this (imaginary) affliction. But relatively less is spoken about how writers end their works. There are some, of course, but the phenomenon is experienced more than it is spoken about. Let’s assume therefore that the writer; a writer, is all gung-ho about what he’s writing and has a solid start and an idea in place; a solid premise with which to begin his work. And he continues putting on paper, so to speak, the words that are taking shape in his mind as he takes context into account of what he has already written. And at some point, when the facts have been laid out and he has said what he has had to say, the crux of the idea, atleast, he pauses. He hasn’t really thought this through. He scratches his head and looks around for inspiration. Maybe some object in his surrounding can be incorporated in his work that will bring him closer to a conclusion. He retraces his steps and reads what he’s already written. Did he miss some logical threads? Did he jump the gun at some point to an unobvious inference? He hasn’t. In the meantime he’s received a ping on his cellphone that prompts him to check on a tweet he’s posted earlier in the day. It’s a response cheering him on. He’s boasted promisingly about how he means to write something concrete by the end of the day. He guiltily slinks back to the minimized document and rests his hand on the keyboard, by now having forgotten where his thoughts wandered off and he rereads the last line. He tries thinking about the original premise again. Should he add an alternate angle to the pot? Will this help him round off the whole thing nicely by stating that all perspectives having been looked at, this is the logical end of the topic in question? Perhaps. He thinks about all the authors he’s read. How did they conclude their works? The last arrow in his quiver – imitation. But even drawing inspiration from that seems laborious. His eyes droop. He yawns. He’s exhausted..his brain cells are slowly shutting down, having thought so much about something that should, ideally, not be so tough to do now that he’s managed to convey his original idea pretty cogently. But, as easy as it should be, the end is, in fact, a very important part of the article. But the writer is tired and he makes up a lazy half-assed conclusion and hits “Publish”. He’s victorious. He has completed his work, hasn’t he? He’s too tired to feel guilty, to acknowledge the gnawing voice in his head that’s telling him he hasn’t done complete justice to what he set out to do.
Another important parameter in this discussion and one that’s even more relevant today than it has ever been is distraction. Humans today have shockingly low attention spans, fueled by smartphones and the Internet and false measures of satisfaction received from hits of dopamine from social networking sites that they think they’ve made contributions to by way of one-line statuses and “microblog” entries. Likes and Reactions and Hearts do nothing to disabuse us of our misguided notions. These excuse for ideas are fleeting and are wasted on the transient content hoarders. Their only purpose is to give us those bursts of “happiness” and are not of any value when ideas have to germinate and grow in our minds. And while there are many thinkers and doers on these websites that do offer up tons of free advice and thoughts that poke and tickle our minds, these effects are again, impermanent and do not leave any lasting traces to better us as individuals. Let’s say you do draw some value. It’s still minuscule compared to what you’re losing out on in the process. This is a massive reason for Writer’s Fatigue.
Paraphrasing a quote that has dated well from when it was originally made, I believe in 1867, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”,most people are told. Maybe they’re friends of this writer. Maybe the journal that’s published his work has some faith in his past works and this article has therefore passed muster. And so, the first network that this writer can reach reads the article. The fact that it starts off strong dripping and showcasing the pinnacle of his enthusiasm is very good. But if, by the time, the reader reaches the end of the article and is not offered the requisite satisfaction, or if his interest has somehow dwindled by the 60 or 70% mark, the writer has quite unambiguously failed in his efforts. He has transferred the idea he wished to convey to the reader, sure. But the idea will not linger. Because it is now clouded with this air of dissatisfaction. If, even by chance, conversations are struck up about this piece of work, it will always have words synonymous with “okay” or “alright” attached to it. And the secondhand narrative will not come off as persuasive as it could have been. A whole second network of readers deprived of an idea all because of the writer’s fatigue; his failure to end his article with the same interest he had started his article with. And this is the damage that “writer’s fatigue” can do.
Is there a solution to this? Is there a way a writer can power ahead and give an article the kind of conclusion it deserves? Will a reader be rewarded for the time he has invested in the article all the way to the bottom of the page?
One of the most obvious solutions is to take a page out of Stephen Covey’s book. He famously remarked – “Begin with the End in Mind“. Easier said than done, yes. But it always helps if you sit and think about the entire draft and not just the meat of the matter, before putting pen to paper.
Another step in the right direction would be to deprive one’s self of all distractions while writing so as to not interrupt the flow of thoughts. In the dozen short stories I’ve written so far, only a couple of them have had satisfying endings, if I say so myself, because they’ve been written with some amount of intense focus, and it shows. The irony that this very post will be shared on the vile aforementioned social networking websites is not lost on me. But I have tried to prevent myself in their usage while working on this post. Attempting to walk the talk, as it were.
If the subject has a conclusion of its own – like the end of a movie or the last page of a book, that’s easier to see as a logical end, but even that shouldn’t be jumped to just because you’re tired of writing. Because, as I’ve already said, a skydiving experience is only blissful, if your parachute opens up and you land safely, gracefully. The alternative is a plunge that no one recovers from. Abstract subjects are less easy to end, but for these, a scope of discussion must be established.
Of course, these aren’t silver bullets and you are ultimately at the mercy of the subject of what you’re writing about, the amount of practice you’ve had and your own mind. I’m learning how to overcome it consistently myself. But I hope this atleast helps address the issue if not resolve it.
Maybe this isn’t a satisfying end to this article either.
Maybe it is.
What do you think? Have you faced Writer’s Fatigue? If yes, what’s your way of tackling it?