1. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Would You Finish Your Book?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Catrin Lewis, Mar 5, 2016.

    If you learned you had a terminal illness, or if you contracted some progressively-debilitating disease, would you do your best to finish your work-in-progress? Would you make the effort to get it published, or to see that it got published?

    The question assumes that you can still think and type or at least dictate, and that you're not distracted night and day with pain.

    Thing is, a woman I know has a completed manuscript, an American Civil War biography, and a year or two back she told me she had a publisher who was interested and would work with her to enhance her book's appeal to their target audience. Well, since then she's developed Parkinson's Disease. When I saw her the other day I asked if her book was available, thinking I'd buy a copy and send readers her way. After all, if I were in her position, seeing my book sell would be a real encouragement.

    To my surprise, she reacted as if I'd asked something like, "Hey, are you still involved in that bondage cult?" She angrily told me she was doing nothing more with writing, she had more important things to tend to, and she didn't want to hear one word about it, Not One Word.

    She has the right to feel as she does on the matter, whether I understand it or not. But what about you? Would you soldier on to get your work out there before it was too late--- or would writing turn irrelevant in the face of disease and impending death? Somebody on these forums asked a similar question the other day about a literary situation, but I'm curious what you would do for real.
     
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2016
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I would make an effort to finish it and publish if I had time.

    You have to wonder what must be going through your friend's mind, something happened perhaps to make her sour on the book. Maybe she had a disagreement with said interested publisher.
     
  3. Carthonn
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    Carthonn Active Member

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    I think it depends on if I'm actually producing some legitimate work. Right now I'm not exactly writing something that I would describe as ground breaking. So right now, no I wouldn't. However, look at David Bowie. I have to give him some serious credit because he was producing new work while he was dying. In the future if it turns out that the stuff I'm writing right now turns out to be significant and I am diagnosed with a terminal illness then yes I would continue until I kick the bucket.
     
  4. NiallRoach
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    NiallRoach Contributing Member

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    Maybe. I like to think that it would give me the push needed to get it done, since there'd be no hope for doing it later.
    Or maybe I'd just want to spend my remaining time doing something else. I don't have a bucket list or things I'm desperate to do, so maybe I'd just enjoy being at home while i could.
     
  5. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    I sure would be writing, but not on a novel. On essays.
     
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  6. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    It's very hard to tell what I'd do. One of those situations where you can't say for sure how you'll feel until it happens.

    At the moment, not suffering from any terminal illness other than 'life,' I'd want to finish it and get it published. But if I suddenly learned I had Parkinsons or something like that ...dunno.

    It's a shame she snapped at you about it, but possibly it just reminds her of all the other things she intended to do with her life, and probably won't now. She might change her mind later.
     
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  7. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I would probably give up writing novels and short stories and start writing a diary/memoir about my experience with my illness. At the very least, it could be something my family reads after I'm gone (it's a lot easier for me to write about my thoughts and feelings than talk about them), so I'm not that concerned about publication.
     
  8. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Moises Kaufman wrote a marvelous play called "33 Variations", in which a music professor is trying to complete her research work on Beethoven's piece of the same name while at the same time suffering the degenerative effects of ALS. As she progresses in her work, she is absolutely driven to complete it, not wanting to make any adaptations for her condition (which leads to conflict with her daughter). She finishes the work but dies before she can present it, leaving that to her daughter. It's a brilliant and moving play, and I was lucky to see Jane Fonda in the role of the music professor.

    It is, as others have noted, a very personal choice. I'm in the process of trying to get my novel published. If I were suddenly diagnosed with a terminal illness, I would do everything in my power to see that through, and if I hadn't finished writing it, I'd do everything I could to finish it. After all, my writing is the only thing I can leave behind when I go. I want it to reach as many readers as possible. Otherwise, what is the point of it all?

    BTW, both my brother-in-law and a cousin of mine have Parkinson's. There are numerous treatments - drugs, and now the "deep brain stimulation" - that can slow the process and restore functionality. I had another relative who lived until she was 88 with the disease. and that was back in the 1970s. So, there are many good reasons not to give up.
     
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  9. Raven484
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    Raven484 Contributing Member

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    I would definitely try to finish. It would leave something behind that my family could remember me by. I wouldn't be motivated just to find readers, passing something down to my family would be number 1 to me. I think it would be very cool if 150 years from now my great, great, great, great whatever could read something created by me and say, "Wow, Bob must of been a pretty cool guy", or "Wow, I didn't know we had such wackos in our family, how did I turn out normal!"
     
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  10. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    I think motivation would instantly deflate. As they say, bigger fish to fry.

    Were a person to continue finishing it, I'd bet that was some kind of coping device to combat low spirits due to the illness.

    IMO the dream of being a writer is strongly connected to the 'payoff' one fantasizes they might receive down the line. So, knowing you may never see those fruits materialize could zap the will by invoking a 'why bother' frame of mind. This is just my opinion, and I know others disagree, though I wonder how many of them have endured real catastrophe. When facing life or death (for real that is) 'play time' suddenly drops way down on the list of priorities.

    Unless, like I said, the writing itself becomes a high-priority coping mechanism. I'm kinda in that place now, btw.
     

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