review, this time of Dan Magers’s Partyknife, for The Fiddleback’s blog.
The word “complete” comes to us pretty much unchanged from the Latin but, interestingly, the meaning of the Latin form — completus — included a martial sense, of “to fill up, complete the number of (a legion, etc.),” at least according to the Online Etymology Dictionary. One should not go into battle with an incomplete unit.
I occasionally have a hard time completing pieces of writing. A quick scan of my files finds three mostly complete essays that I can’t, for some reason, bring myself to finish editing; two others that began auspiciously but haven’t been touched in some time; and innumerable shorter pieces. Much of my personal writing — barring the odd piece where I just need a quote, I have no trouble finishing professional assignments — works like this.
Why? I could say something about liking the process more than the product, but that’s not entirely true — rereading a piece of my own writing that I think works well gives me almost the same pleasure that writing one does. I could discuss distraction (such as this blog), and having enough time to sit down and finish something. Maybe I resist hard endings; I do like albums filled with songs that wander into one another. It’s probably all of the above.
Anyhow, Faulkner said it best:
“In my opinion, if I could write all my work again, I am convinced that I would do it better, which is the healthiest condition for an artist. That’s why he keeps on working, trying again; he believes each time that this time he will do it, bring it off. Of course he won’t, which is why this condition is healthy.”