Last night, I completed the illustration for page 453 of this project. It’s really kind of a strange milestone for a few reasons, which may be relevant to me alone.
First, with the completion of page 453, I now have less than 100 pages remaining. Realizing that was, for me, kind of staggering. Honestly, there was never any doubt in my mind that I would complete this project and create an illustration for all 552 pages. Even from the very beginning, when that number seemed to stretch out in front of me like an endless horizon, I knew I would do it. However, that confidence was always tied to something I realized only in the most abstract sense. Almost like how, when you first propose to your future spouse, you know full well that some day you will be married to that person but it’s so far away, so big, that it just doesn’t make much sense at the time. Or, put another way, when you start college you know that someday you’ll graduate. But beyond that simple fact, you really don’t know much more. Is this making any sense?
Now, though, that end is almost, just barely, almost imperceptibly in sight. After months and months and months of working ever so slowly, page by page, through this mammoth novel, the end is nearing. Perhaps less than 100 pages still seems like a lot to those of you reading this, but to me, with 453 pages (as well as almost 20 alternate versions) behind me, it really doesn’t seem like all that much at all.
The second, and perhaps more obtuse, reason this is a milestone is that from this point onward, I will never again draw a page that ends in the number 53. Or, for that matter, 54 or 55 or 56 and so on. It’s a little thing, I know, and maybe a weird thing, I guess, but again it really reinforces to me just how far I’ve come and how much I have created. It’s a little bittersweet in a way too. This project has been such an enormous part of my life for the last 15 and a half months that it is now difficult to imagine my days without it, for good or ill.
Daryl L.L. Houston emailed me and described what he thought would be, for me, a “weird blend of emptiness and freedom” once I finished this project. That was extremely perceptive of him, and a very accurate appraisal. It will be weird. It will be freeing. It will also feel empty. I am simultaneously looking forward to finishing this project very very much (I miss my wife so much it hurts, and I feel like I have missed the last year of our lives together even though I see her briefly every single day) and filled with sadness at what I know will be a very final ending.
For now though, I am going to enjoy this milestone as best I can, and press on for the next 99 pages. I expect to finish the project for good some time in February if all goes well. This last portion of the book will be very challenging, I think, but I have yet to feel burned out and the ideas keep coming in abundance. For that I am thankful.