All writing is incomplete. Each time a written work is called “finished,” it is as an act of faith, knowing that in the sacrifice of words, so much was left out, left unsaid.
And so it must be.
If every time I sit down to write, I think I need to get it all out, to write all that is on my mind – and write it coherently – I will write nothing. Yes, I need a starting point, and yes, I can let my mind go where it will. But at some point, I have to stop. I will need to stop typing or moving the pen across the page and go on with the rest of my life. And there will still be things left unsaid.
So I better accept that fact up front. I need to accept the utility of a frame. The frame is what makes writing look “done.”
Form is a type of frame. If you choose a novel, your frame is perhaps 300 pages of character development, background, setting, and plot, within a given timeframe. This is a generous landscape, but by necessity, leaves out the full scope of human history, biology, politics, and the billions of souls that have walked those paths. You select your frame around a specific story’s beginning, middle, and end. You choose what gets said, and what gets left out. You pick your point.
Framing is what the best editors do best. A really good editor (whether internal, in my mind, or external, i.e. another person) will tell me what words and thoughts and concepts can hide behind the wood or metal rectangle, and what parts of my word picture should be highlighted. At least for today, at least for this frame.
In my next blog post or poem or great American novel, I might be able to use the words hidden behind the frame. Or they might just remain my secret stash of hidden marginalia.
Go ahead, write what you can in the time available to you. Use up as many pages as you can as a great act of faithful written sacrifice. Then choose your frame well.
Your readers will appreciate that they can understand the one point you have made today. And you will be less stressed, knowing you don’t ever have to be done with this writing thing. You will always have more to say. I know (I know!). Keep going.