William A. Hainline: Reality Engineer

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The go-to site for fans of science fiction writer William A. Hainline. Also the go-to site for non-fans, or anybody else who wants to follow what this curmudgeonly weirdo of a writer is currently up to in the depths of his mad science dungeon.

On Keeping Going, And The Persistence Of Vision

Sometimes, you feel like giving up. We've all been there. Whether it's a home-improvement project, or a particularly difficult assignment at work, or, say . . . a novel you're writing. You get to a point where you feel like the task before you is overwhelming, and you've bitten off more than you can chew. You get to a point where you feel like "Oh fuck a duck, just fuck it, the whole thing; goddamn it, I'll never finish this. It's too big, too complex, too much for me. Just fuck the whole thing right in the ear, toss it in the garbage disposal, and rough it up into tiny pieces for the dog to chew on, because I'm fucking done with this sumbitch! The end! That's it, and that's all! I've had it!" Well, if you've ever watched Babylon 5 — and if you haven't, I'm going to ask, "What the hell is wrong with you? Go watch all five seasons right the hell now!" — you know that the Minbari have a saying. "Faith manages." And ti's as true in the real world as it is in fiction. When those times come, when you feel like throwing the whole project into the incinerator and gleefully cackling as it burns to ash and all your hard work goes up in smoke as you give up and jus forsake the whole thing as a lost cause, you have to remember something: You started this journey — whatever journey it is, whether it's a journey to fix up part of the house, or a journey towards the words "The End at the end of your novel" — with faith not just in the idea, or in the vision of the finished product, but with faith in yourself. You believed enough in yourself to think, "Fuck yeah, I can do this. I can make this happen. I can create this out of nothing, I can spin this into existence with my bare hands. I can manage this, make this a reality." And that is a tremendous act of vigilant belief in oneself. But somewhere along the way you stumbled, lost the faith. You lost faith not in the idea, or the vision, or the principle . . . no. You lost faith in yourself, faith that you could see it through. Faith that you had the power to make whatever was in your head come to fruition in reality. You lost faith in your own personal godhood, your ability to remake the world in your image. The idea is still there, the vision is still clear. It is your eyes that are the problem.

So how do you get that back? How do you jumpstart your belief in yourself, bootstrap your own process of self-empowerment so you can feel ready to take on the world and win again? 

You clear your eyes. You wash them out. You put on a pair of spectacles, you get a fresh perspective. How do you do this? Well, it’s easy. You just take a step back, take a deep breath, and blink a few times. You just keep calm . . . conjure up a tiny spark of desire . . . fan the tiny flame still inside of you, that part that still believes — because it’s in there, I know it is, and so do you — and you close your eyes . . . breathe in, breathe out . . . and look upon the work again, with clear vision. You see it as it once was, in embryonic form. The way you saw it in the beginning, as an egg. As it once began. You see it full of possibility, full of the promise of life, full of the potential it used to have. You see it the way you first saw it in your head, many moons ago when you first began it. And then you sigh, and clear away all the rubbish of worry, and doubt, and most of all, you clear away the fear that you can’t do it, that it’ll never be done, and that it’ll never be what you envision, or what you want it to be. You get rid of all that. Because all of that’s the future, and the future . . . hasn’t happened yet. It’s still the future, which is nonexistent in the now. And the time . . . is now. And right now, the idea is still an egg. It’s still new. It’s still fresh. It’s a baby. And it’s dependent on you — no one else — to bring it to life, nurture it, help it grow into what only you know it can become. So you pick up your tools, or maybe just one, for now — because there’s no pressure, there’s no deadline; right now, there is only just you, and the work — and you set to once again. You pick up your pencil, or your paintbrush, or your hammer and nails, and you once again begin the work. Because you can do this. You’re the artist. You’re the one who can bring this thing to life. You have the power. You are uniquely qualified to give this creation the blood in its veins, the breath in its lungs. Because only you know what it can be; only you can see it in its final form, only you can see it through. And that is a phenomenal power to possess.

This is how you get your groove back. This is how you get your mojo working again. This is how you get the muse to revisit you. If the muse seems to have abandoned you, it isn’t really so; it isn’t that the muse has left . . . it’s simply that you’ve lost the eyes to see her (or him), lost the ability to listen to their sweet song. So clean out your ears, wipe out your eyes. Take a step back, and breathe. And clear out your eye-boogers and your ear-wax as you do. Focus on the embryo of the idea. See it as it once was. And then see all it can be—again. And own your power as a creator . . . for only you can give your creation life. Only you can birth this thing. Who’s awesome? You are. You got this. Now go. Do it. Bring art into the world. And make it a more beautiful place.

So what’s your take on this? What keeps you going? What’s your persistence of vision? What inspires your muse when it seems the tank has run dry? Let me know in the comments!

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