The Fear of the Last Word

Writers experience a whole cornucopia of emotions during the course of their careers—anxiety about deadlines, joy when we finish something, pride when we see our books on shelves or in the hands of others—but there is one emotion we avoid speaking of when it comes to our professional lives. Fear.

Fear that the last book really was our last.

Fear that our idea well has dried up and our muse has moved on.

Fear of the last word.

Paralyzing, engrossing, fascinating…fear.

Don’t look too close at the fear, we tell ourselves. If you believe in it, it will believe in you and that is bad news for your writing. But it’s so hard to look away from it! We don’t know where the ideas come from. Who’s to say they’ll keep coming? Who’s to say the angel of creativity might not turn his face away from us? If a writer tells you he doesn’t worry about this, he’s lying.

My very best work is accomplished when my muse sits on my shoulder and whispers it directly into my ear. It’s inspired, feverish, intense and very, very rare. Most often, I feel like I’m plodding through my story, pleading with my muse for something, anything. And I get messages back, but they’re more detached than those intimate whispers. Like emails. Or—if I’m lucky—a handwritten note on scented paper…and mailed from a great distance.

I know I haven’t written my last book. I have one waiting to be edited and I’m writing another one. But still, the last word—my last word—is out there somewhere. It hasn’t been written yet, but it will be. I just hope I write everything I want to write before I write that one.