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I’ve never been skilled at finishing projects. I begin hobbies with the kind of adrenalin-squirting enthusiasm that keeps you awake past midnight. I buy all the expensive gear. I clear a big, important space to create in. I dive in with intensely focused energy.

Then, about half way through, I give up.

Though I’m ashamed to admit it, I have a terrible habit of half-reading books, even if the book is great. For some bizarre reason, I squander the second half of a good read for more desperate times. Since we’re yet to hit a literature depression, many of my books remain permanently dog-eared on page 150.

So when I began writing a book, I feared it would end up frolicking with the dusty bunnies in the corner of my neglected projects room. At 50,000 words (page 150), I found myself facing a familiar dilemma: I would like to give up now, please.

Having already invested so much hard work, I knew I’d never forgive myself for walking away. I needed a grandiose scheme, so I went for my Achilles heel with a sledgehammer …

Let me backtrack by telling you that I worry a lot. This condition is known as ‘Generalized Anxiety Disorder,’ affectionately referred to as, “The Gad.”

I’ve got a bad case of The Gads today.”

While normal people spend their spare time dreaming, unwinding, and escaping, I dwell in elaborate worst-case scenarios. I chew on worry at snack time. As a kid, while other children were dreaming of waterslides leading into swimming pools filled with raspberry soda, I spent my leisure time worrying incessantly about my parents dying in a freak accident.

So, when I reached the halfway point of my book, I played on this weakness of mine for motivation: What if my one of my parents die and they never get to read my book? And what if I never get to share my book with Dad?

Nothing was more gut wrenching to imagine.

My dad, you see, is a writer who has spent his life cranking out scripts for film and television. He has mixed with stars and lunched with Tarantino, so he casts a very big shadow. I won’t lie: I wanted to impress him. Like every daddy’s girl, my life pursuit has been to make him proud.

Dad might die and never read your book. Keep going! Do it now!

I tortured myself with this morbid mantra. The closer I got to the finishing line, the more insistent The Gad became.

Finish it. Share it. Do it now. Time is running out!

I worked myself into a state of high anxiety. I neglected friends. I ignored chores. Clock hands spun. Babies were born. Birthdays were missed. Fashion was shunned entirely. Luckily, I don’t own a Slanket, or I would’ve looked like this for the good part of a year (sans smile):

Was it a healthy way to stay motivated?

Not really.

But it worked.

As the first draft spat from my printer, I cried with joy. After torturing myself with intense pressure to get it done, I’d produced a finished project: 300 pages of my full commitment.

Though he didn’t know it, my dad had motivated me to finish, so I handed him the first copy to read.

A few days later—

Torre – Just finished reading. Wow. I’m impressed, touched and very, very proud. You’ve met the most important requisite of a book in that the reader can completely lose himself in the story.

I cried so hard that my dog thought I had broken. (Incidentally, she also suffers from The Gad.) She attempted to mend me with a thousand licks. “Thank you, little Frida,” I told her, “but I’m not broken, I’m just incredibly happy and relieved.”

From there, I reworked the manuscript into another polished draft, and then another, and another. Dad read my (almost) finished draft in late October 2010, once again replying with wonderful compliments, once again making my anxiety-ridden dog worry that I had broken.

But as it turns out, my anxiety was not so unreasonable after all …

Six weeks later, while I was touring New Zealand, Dad was diagnosed with advanced-stage cancer.

Over months, I watched my dad grow ill and suffer through weight loss, sapped energy and incredible discomfort. As poisonous chemicals pumped through him, hijacking his cells, it became harder and harder to recognize the man with the gaunt body and sallow face who was laboring to live another day. The man who’d always cast a big shadow withered into his bed sheets.

Seeing him deteriorate, and knowing the odds against metastasized cancer, I spent much of 2011 in quiet mourning, crying in bursts, reminiscing, and giving much thought to what life would be like without Dad.

Hollow.

My dog comforted me again with her frantic licks, but this time she had it right: I was broken.

I was facing an uncomfortable truth about life. The time we have with the people we love is fleeting. The window we’re given to bare our souls, share ourselves, and make amends will close. That is not The Gad talking. It’s very real.

It turns out my dad’s a fighter. Not only did he endure the intensive chemo, he also battled a horrendous liver surgery. He’s come a very long way, and his recovery is evident in the glow of his skin. Next summer, he’ll no doubt sit on the beach, smiling at the sailboats on the horizon as his dogs busy themselves digging holes to China. He has a few more serious procedures ahead, but for now, he has survived. It’s my turn to be very, very proud of him.

Perhaps he’ll be around for my second book or my next adventure? Maybe I’ll get to watch his latest movie on the big screen? I don’t know, but as a pessimist, these were not hopes that I held eight months ago.

I think back to a year ago when I was working like mad, ignoring calls, neglecting chores, and writing obsessively. Maybe I sensed cues that he was sick long before the doctors did. Maybe I knew in my heart that it could be my last chance for us to travel together—via my words—on an epic sailing adventure.

As my book launches, I feel a strange sense of calm. If it sells well and people enjoy it, I’ll be flattered. But I didn’t write a book to get published, or to pay the bills, or to deliberate over which actor would play me in the movie version. Those accomplishments would be amazing, but that’s not why I wrote this book.

I wrote this book for Dad.

And no matter what happens now, my work here is done.

Dad flies over from Australia to visit me in Tonga.

Sailing with Dad through the beautiful waters of Tonga, looking for whales.

A humpback appears and gives us a private show. One of the best days of my life.

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52 Response Comments

  • Lou  September 15, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    This is so beautiful, thank you for sharing it. I have been inspired to quit my job and go travelling by my Mother, who sadly lost her battle with cancer last year. I am glad that your Dad has come through and has seen his little girl’s name on the front of such a wonderful book. I was totally hooked by your first chapter, but I am saving the full story for 3 weeks time, on my apartment balcony in Croatia, with a glass of wine in hand!

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche  September 15, 2011 at 1:46 pm

      Sorry to hear, Lou. I’m glad your mother inspired you. It’s a very hard thing to deal with, but I do believe that as long as we’re open to it, bad experiences can teach us to embrace life. That’s exactly what you’ve learned, it seems. Good work!

      Ooh! Croatia with a glass of wine and a book. Can I join you? 🙂

      Reply
      • Lou  September 15, 2011 at 2:33 pm

        You could do the first ever book-on-tape in person 🙂

        Reply
  • Emma  September 15, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    What a terrific post. My parents aren’t writers, but I still value their feedback a great deal. Best wishes to your dad for a full recovery!

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche  September 15, 2011 at 1:48 pm

      Thanks, Emma. I value my mum’s feedback as much as I value my dad’s. She laughs very generously (she’s a cheap laugh), so I need her around to laugh at my jokes!

      Reply
  • Leslie Forman  September 15, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    Wow. A powerful story. Thanks for sharing it. Finishing a massive and personal project is not easy. I think the Gad (love that word) strikes everyone at times. I love the photos, and I’m glad your dad’s encouragement kept you going.

    Wishing you both health and happiness!

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche  September 16, 2011 at 12:11 am

      I agree: we all have a bit of the Gad at varying levels. It keeps us on our toes! Thanks, Leslie.

      Reply
  • Dina Santorelli  September 15, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    Torre, I am in tears. What a beautiful, beautiful post and tribute to your father. I see where you get your fighting spirit from. I was going to write some witty comment about how The Slanket is called The Snuggie here in the States or about how I’ve said many, many times that “anybody can start a novel, but only few can finish one,” but I am overcome by the emotion in your post. Thank you for sharing, and as I read your book I will think of you and your dad and smile.

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche  September 16, 2011 at 12:14 am

      Thank you, Dina.

      Tina Fey, or ‘Liz Lemon’ often refers to her Slanket, so I think the US must have two competing brands?

      Reply
      • Dina Santorelli  September 16, 2011 at 10:09 am

        Ha! You must be right. I’ve only been inundated with Snuggie commercials. And must have missed the Slanket references on 30 Rock. 🙂

        Reply
  • Mo  September 15, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    That’s just so moving Torre I am so glad for you and your dad he’s a lucky man to have you as a daughter! Looking forward to reading the book you got a very nice style.
    mo

    Reply
  • Kim  September 15, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    I’m crying! You did him proud Torre.

    Reply
  • Jen Zeman  September 15, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    Amazing post. Congratulations on your accomplishment – and still having your dad there to experience it.

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche  September 16, 2011 at 12:32 am

      Thank you. I consider myself to be very lucky.

      Reply
  • JoAnna  September 15, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    A seriously touching story. I think I might cry and my cat will have to fix me! Way to finish such a daunting project, Torre.

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche  September 16, 2011 at 12:33 am

      Cats are good at fixing you when you’re broken too, except their sandpaper tongues are a little painful. Thanks for your comment.

      Reply
  • Andi of My Beautiful Adventures  September 15, 2011 at 8:24 pm

    I have tears in my eyes right now. This post was saw honest and beautiful. I’m delighted that your Dad is still here and my thoughts are with him. I am sure he is SO proud of you!!!

    Reply
  • Karen  September 15, 2011 at 9:15 pm

    You are both made from the same stuff, Torre girl. Love to you both. xx

    Reply
  • Beware of Falling Coconuts  September 15, 2011 at 11:16 pm

    *Tears*!!!

    Inspiring words, Torre. So very true. Life is short. Our openings are fleeting. Seize the day. You’ll forever be my inspiration for truly taking life by the horns.

    Reply
  • Denise  September 16, 2011 at 5:42 am

    Halfway through reading this post I was already preparing some smart-ass comment along the lines of:
    -forsaking fashion: working on it, considering the number of times I leave my house with my t-shirt inside out. The Slanket: clicked the ‘buy now’ button….
    But then I came to the dad part and my eyes started tearing up. I’m not going to laugh at you for always fearing something would happen to him…often, I find myself fearing that my partner will never come home. He means the world to me, like your dad means to you. Once again, congratulations on finishing your book. I think you deserve success, and I hope your dad keeps fighting and stays well! Stay strong.

    Reply
  • Linda  September 16, 2011 at 10:34 pm

    Wonderful post. A lovely tribute to your father. I am so glad that he is fighting as he is. It must be wonderful to have parents who are so supportive. I am quite sure that you are both quite rightly proud of each other, and this post is a true inspiration in a blog-world of pseudo-motivational postings. I hope that you have many more yeas to be proud of each other; very well done for finishing the book (I suffer from that syndrome too); and I hope the book sells really really well for you.

    Reply
  • Roving Jay  September 17, 2011 at 11:52 am

    Glad to see I’m not the only one who starts projects with maniacal enthusiasm; invests in all the tools, books etc. needed to become an expert in “XXX” (Insert hobby of the moment), only to loose faith, and give up! Writing my blog is the one thing I’ve sustained for the longest, but it isn’t easy – but it’s a great way to reach people.

    Your post gave me goose bumps… well done for completing the book, and thanks for sharing the importance of how you got it finished.

    Reply
  • Christy @ Ordinary Traveler  September 18, 2011 at 5:45 am

    Omg… this story just made me cry. What an intense story. I’m so glad to hear your father is recovering and I really have to get a copy of your book! Soo.. did the Slanket come out after the Snuggie? I’ve never heard it called that. 🙂

    Reply
  • Sally  September 18, 2011 at 5:47 am

    Oh Torre, this was both heartbreaking and totally inspirational. Thank you so much for sharing.

    Reply
  • Sheryll  September 18, 2011 at 6:22 am

    What a beautiful and touching post, Torre. Thank you for sharing. Wishing your father a full recovery and happiness!

    Reply
  • MaryAnne  September 18, 2011 at 9:47 am

    That was a really moving post– and it totally caught me off guard as I was busy nodding away at the abandoning projects theme and was mentally preparing a related comment until you shifted gears and totally made me cry and abandon the need to write a ‘me too!’ comment.

    Reply
  • Liv  September 18, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    Your honesty is heart-breaking in this post Torre. I wish my Dad was still around for his feedback on my writing (My Dad wasn’t so lucky against metastatic cancer last year) but I am really glad for you that your Dad is beating it.

    Reply
  • Leif  September 22, 2011 at 2:04 am

    I am the same way, about half way through, I lose my steam. So happy for you that you managed to finished this one though. I have really been enjoying it. I can’t believe the boat was only a 32 footer! Thats really small.

    Reply
  • Angela  September 22, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    Wow, this is a beautiful post and beautiful news. Your dad really is a fighter, more people should be like him. Glad you finished the book 🙂

    Reply
  • Sarahsomewhere  October 14, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    Since reading this post just reduced me to tears (honestly) I cannot wait to read your book. Heartfelt congratulations, I already know I’m gonna love it.

    Reply
  • Bethany ~ twoOregonians  October 20, 2011 at 7:01 am

    Yet again, you cut to the heart of life and what matters most. I so love visiting your site and reading over your shoulder. And what a wonderful daughter you are; how fortunate are we to have fathers so loving and full of courage and resolve. Best to you, as always. xx

    Reply
  • Tameri Etherton  October 27, 2011 at 2:15 am

    What a lovely and moving story. Not just about your dad, which brought me to tears, but about your decision to upend your life and take risks. I have a 20 year-old daughter very much like you and it makes for some sleepless nights, but she’s living her life and I honor that above all else.

    Your dad must be a remarkable man to come through cancer like he did. The fact that you were motivated by him touches me. My dad isn’t a big time writer, he’s just a guy, but he’s told me over and over that when I write my book, he’s going to buy the first copy. I love that about him. He doesn’t even read fantasy, but I know he will if it has my name on it. That’s love.

    Kinda like the love you and your dad have for each other and that’s always nice to read. Thanks for sharing. I can’t wait to read your book!

    Reply
  • niamhclune  October 27, 2011 at 8:20 am

    I really love this blog – interesting, gentle and well-written. Classy! And great to be introduced to Torre DeRoche.

    Reply
  • Linn B Halton  October 28, 2011 at 7:18 am

    Losing a loved one is one of the hardest things to face in life. You’re Dad will be thrilled with what you have achieved and this post struck a chord with me as I’ve lost four of my closest relatives in the last 8 years. Death is life-changing and makes you look at things differently. In today’s world I think that’s actually a very positive thing! Wishing you all the very best and I’m so glad I read this post!

    Reply
  • Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot  November 8, 2011 at 2:25 am

    Hi Torre,

    Finally got round to reading this and glad I did. I think it’s a smart way to motivate yourself to finish the project. Loved hearing that you have writing in your genes too and that you write the book with one person in mind.

    Sounds like his high standards have been passed down too.

    Love the pics and hoping your dad will stay well to see your next book published too:)

    xox A

    Reply
  • Katee  January 6, 2012 at 5:21 am

    Congratulations and much love and peace to your heart! What a journey and what a wonderful story!

    I hope you and your dad really enjoy some extra special time together during this season, despite the hardships.

    Reply
  • Shona Patel  May 1, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    You just moved me to tears. I wish my mom and dad were here to see me get published. I am sure once they recovered from the shock of seeing themselves put in a sex scene – they would be very proud. I am also doom&gloom writer given to morbid imaginings. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  • Kayla  July 6, 2012 at 4:35 am

    I wanted to say thank you for writing such a wonderful post, and its no wonder that you are now a published author.
    I stumbled across your post when I typed in “anxiety of finishing novel” and this has calmed my worries as I sit down and face the last 5,000 words.
    As I read, I felt like you were describing me perfectly (I also suffer from the Gad 🙂 ) and I hope my story ends up as happy as yours.
    I find your story truly inspirational and I wish you all the best.
    Kayla

    Reply
  • Josh  May 17, 2013 at 7:03 pm

    Thank you so much for this..I am plagued by the Gads..seemingly, for most of my life..anything that I pour my heart and soul into (that’s pretty much everything I try my hand at), I get the Gads, and there are many times where I just stopped and went on to do something else…I have videos to finish, I have a compilation of what I’ve been told are inspirational, enlightening facebook posts to compile, along with a whole slew of songs and other things..I enjoy doing a lot of things, and it’s really hard for me to stay focused on one thing when I get the “gads” because there are plenty of other things I can go back to work on, or begin working on..ADD…Gad..I’m beginning to think it’s the same thing..

    love your blog, thanks for sharing this!

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche  May 18, 2013 at 7:56 am

      Hmm. Inspiration overload! That can be problematic. Perhaps you just need to be strictly disciplined with yourself about beginning and starting only one thing at a time? Make a commitment to yourself on ONE project and stick it out until the end. Good luck!

      Reply
  • johnson  June 28, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    HI Guys, I just finished my novel and it is my first novel and I was having a hard time getting it published but then I stumbled upon a website called http://www.lithasa.com and i was able to upload the novel as a ebook and i earned alot of revenue from it. Check it out!

    Reply
    • Belinda  September 24, 2013 at 6:59 pm

      I loved your post and I wish you and your father all the happiness God has for you both. May God continue to Bless you and your family as a whole. Now for me I am finished and still tweeking, I need help but afraid to ask because I dont want others looking at my might be terrible writing. I dont have friends that encourage me to go forth. I am struggling with I think a little bit of depression right now and want this to be the first thing I finish for the first time in my life, like you I never finish anything. Money is short so I have to work with what I got. I am a loner but love people and making others happy.

      Reply
  • Nrj  October 21, 2013 at 9:24 am

    You story resembles mine. I am writing a book, its 20-30% done but somehow my attentions got diverted. So many different thoughts like, is it really worth to spend so much time and energy, what if nobody will read my book, being a technical book what if people will disapprove it and I will be known as a mediocre blah blah.

    I really want to get published … to get myself known, to advance in my career but lacking in determination powers.

    Thnx …

    Reply

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