Ernie waddled to the edge of the iceberg, looking out over the endless ocean. Next to him other penguins dove into the water, and others jumped back onto the berg, but he took no notice of any of them. His mind danced along the horizon, teasing him with imaginings of what lay beyond.
“What are you looking at?” It was Blackie, a friend who’d come up beside him.
“Hum? Oh, nothing, I just… Hey Blackie, have you ever thought about what’s past the ocean?”
“What do you mean, like the breeding rocks?”
“No, beyond that. Have you ever wondered what else is out there?”
“There isn’t anything else. Just look.”
“I heard about a place where it’s so warm that ice melts, plants grow really tall, and there are all types of strange creatures. Wouldn’t it be incredible to see a place like that?”
“Who told you that crazy stuff?”
“Well, one of the fish who goes to the north in the summer said that…”
“You’re talking to the fish? Oh come on Ernie, even if it were true, what would a fish know about it. He’s messing with you.”
“No, no, he met some of the other creatures there. No, I believe him. They swim a lot farther than we do. How do you know there isn’t anything else? Have you ever gone that far?”
“It doesn’t make sense. We would have heard about it before now if there were a place like that. You’re a trusting guy. You should stay away from those fish, they’re playing a mean joke on you.” Blackie shuffled away, shaking his head.
Ernie looked out again, trying to see as far as he could. Was he a fool to listen to fish? It didn’t matter; he needed to believe there was more.
I wrote this for an online daily writing contest. . . oh gosh – so many, many years ago. But I still kinda like it. I like the optimism and curiosity of the main penguin, Ernie. What I never cared for is the ending. For a long time, I knew the ending was bad, but I didn’t know why. Now, it is obvious to me that the problem is there really is no ending. This is a beginning. It sets up the character and his desires. Then it stops. I’ve been thinking lately that it would be fun to finish this. Give Ernie his adventure. I even checked out some books about penguins from the library today to read up on what might be a plausible way for him to get started on his journey.
I suspect, however -deep down, this may actually be a procrastination tactic I’ve created because I’m stuck in my novel. Today, I planned to give myself a few hours of dedicated writing time. I didn’t need to do other things, I’d let the kids have the run of the house, do whatever they wanted. I would write. Ya know what I did? I cleaned. I hate to clean. Hate. And I took a nap. I didn’t sleep well last night. That’s what I told myself. I couldn’t write while I was so sleepy. Right? I would do so much better after a nap. Then it was time to start dinner. Oh darn – out of time.
Pitiful. Embarrassing and pitiful.
So here is what I’m doing now. I’m making some quick notes on my ideas for Ernie, then I’m setting that aside. Giving him a real story will be my reward for finishing my novel. Finishing is a big problem for me in general. I’m to the point where I don’t really care if it’s good. It just needs to be finished.
Do you ever catch yourself self-sabotaging? What are your clues, and how do you get yourself back on track?