On Why Finishing a Project is My Fatal Flaw

I have never had a problem coming up with new ideas. I’ll stumble out of dreams and hastily jot down the last wisps of a REM cycle, or see an image and have a story unfurl before my eyes, or hear a song verse and can hear my characters singing along before they’re even born. Stories spill from my palms like seeds, ready to be planted, full of budding possibilities.

It’s getting them to bloom that’s the problem.

For example, I’ve recently started outlining a new story. It’s a retelling of Theseus and the Minotaur set in an alternate Greece in the 1960’s. It’s a universe of magical realism, so there are motorcycles and harpies, biplanes and sorcerers. It’s about a young man named Theo Esperon, the son of the Premier Counsel of Graecia, who is sent on a spy mission to the Province of Creton. There are tales there of an abandoned hotel in the heart of the city that’s not as abandoned as it should be, where a monster lurks and people disappear. Theo meets the scheming Counsel Krestoffer and his wife Prusillia, who talks in riddles about a child with curls and horns. When he finally enters the hotel, running for his life from the shadows of lamia and other creatures, he wakes up in a library to see a young man with horns sprouting from a head of curls. Toroniol simply asks him, “Are you here to kill me too?”

Theo, alongside Tor, quickly finds himself in the midst of a conspiracy, the fallout of a coup, and, eventually, the heart of a revolution.

Sounds brilliant, right? Outlining a story is my greatest addiction, building the careful facets of a world, from music to clothing to language to politics. I’ve already cast the characters in my mind, and Ezra Miller as Theo is perfect in my opinion.

However, the road blocks start springing up soon after. Words that once fell from my fingers become clogged, dragging through me as if pulling teeth. Plot lines run out of steam and story arcs wilt on the vine. All that creative energy that I started with dwindles down until I can barely manage to open the document at all. It’s happened to so many of my stories, unripened fruit from seeds that I could no longer nourish.

It’s a habit that I’m trying to break. When I finished my first novel, I thought I was finally clean of my addiction. As I struggle through that novel’s sequel, I know that it’s something that I will eternally struggle against. I keep coming back to the memory of that first story spark, a seed in the palm of my hand, and how it felt when one hundred thousand words were finally in bloom. I hold onto the memory of that garden, and I can only hope that my green thumb continues.


Published by Ren Martinez

Ren is a thirty-something Lost Boy whose personal aesthetic is “suspected of witchcraft by local villagers.” She subscribes to cheerful nihilism, the destruction of the patriarchy, and the belief that glitter makes everything better. She is a Richmond-based writer and performer who has fiction and non-fiction work found in a variety of publications, such as The Mary Sue, RVA Magazine, The Quotable, and Nostrovia Press. She is currently the fiction editor and a regular contributor at Quail Bell Magazine. She is also the co-host of the podcast, This F***ing Guy! Find out more at renmartinez.com or read her dumbass tweets on Twitter @itsrenmartinez

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