10. Finish what you started.
Kurt Vonnegut said something about giving the reader as much information as possible as soon as possible. I have taken this to mean I should tell the reader everything. Yes, you are the reader and I am going to tell you everything! If this goes wrong I think we should hold Kurt Vonnegut wholly responsible. Although the advice that you should finish what you started came from Neil Gaiman, who actually said finish what you’re writing, and, reasonably speaking, Kurt Vonnegut then should not alone carry the weight of the failures here. Neil Gaiman must shoulder some of that load as well.
So this is secret secret number ten, you must finish what you started and my telling you everything according to the fearsome dictates of Kurt Vonnegut begins and ends with the troubling truth that I cannot finish it. This is rough draft number six or seven for me. I have experimented with the idea of stopping this mid sentence, mid paragraph (get it?). I wrote all about how I wasn’t going to stop it mid sentence. I discussed Aesop’s fable of the tortoise and the hare at great length but could never work out why. I brought Kurt Vonnegut into it all early, expanded and contracted the Kurt Vonnegut portions but could never quite get rid of him, eventually settled for holding him responsible in a way that I think we can both see won’t stick. And now, sinking into a quicksand death of this essay I find my only solution is to break the fourth wall.
You may be thinking “But in non-fiction there is no fourth wall!” That is not so. There is always a fourth wall because the “camera” is always somewhere. In this case I, writing, am the camera and if we turn the camera (so to speak, I don’t want to put quotes on it anymore) many illusions about the room we are in (this conceptual writing, reading space) are exposed (we also unavoidably create a new fourth wall with the camera that looks at the camera but that gets infinite and makes me queasy.) One illusion is that we (me writing and you reading) exist in the same time-frame. Yes, there is some element of time travel magic where as these words spill from my pen you read them, but there is also the fact that to me you are a future being reading this in any possible way, possessed of strange and mundane future based knowledges I could not possibly know because they haven’t happened yet, whereas I, this writing, it’s form, content and context, am to you an artifact, immutable, defined, and historical. The writing voices in letters and words, on loose pages, books, computery devices or magazines don’t usually talk about this because, besides breaking some useful illusion of absolute unity, it is of limited interest. But I bring it up here because it is necessary to explain how you, by virtue of the fact that you even exist, know that this will be finished, is indeed finished. I don’t.
Except, to my genuine surprise, I find, suddenly, that I am, actually, pretty much finished. Weird. Well, there’s a lesson in here somewhere. I’ll just let you sort it out from here.