As basically everyone and their mother knows, I recently finished a giant revision. I wrote the book in May and June 2014. I revised in July, got into PitchWars, spent all kinds of time with it in August and September. Spent a little less time with it in October and November, but during that time had people reading it for me and offering all kinds of awesome suggestions. Looked at it in some respect weekly during that time. In December, I started a massive rewrite, almost from scratch. The story is essentially the same in it’s bones, but it’s completely different in personality and style. I kept rewriting in January and February, with an awesome CP and lovely, loyal friends pulling me back from the brink of insanity repeatedly.
And then I finished it. FINALLY. I Finally, Finally finished it. CPs and readers approve. My sister read it in a single sitting and wouldn’t speak to me afterwards due to her crushed emotions, which only gave me great delight. Then I read through it again and polished and doctored and played.
And now it’s really, truly done. A book is never, never done – there is always room to grow and change and learn and improve, but at some point, when you think it’s really the best that you, as an individual, on this day at this hour, can make it, you call it done. And it is.
So I celebrated. And took a little time to bask. And sleep and shower and clean and all the things I hadn’t done in 2015 – well, not much anyways.
But then a few days became a week, and two weeks, and now I’m on week three. I’ve written a 10k short story, critiqued a bunch of things, written a 1k flash fiction, and toyed around with various story starts and things, but I haven’t done any real work. And it was freaking me out a little bit, until last night.
I’m planning a short trip with a friend, and while it’s part vacation, it’s also research for me on a book I hope to write early next year. I also spent some time last night – okay, 2.5 hours – reading Susan Dennard’s series of blog posts on all kinds of writerly topics from planning a book to how to revise to, importantly for me, productivity and developing as a writer. And somehow these two things together clicked and put me so at ease I just had to tell you guys about it.
I might be between projects, and this might be the longest I’ve gone since college without being neck deep in a book project. But it’s okay. It’s okay now, and it will be again. First, like the list above shows, I haven’t done nothing – I have kept busy with a variety of things, and they’ve exercised other sides of my writing that are important. I’ve read a ton of books and filled up my mind with beautiful words and great examples of how to write well, I’ve pulled apart other people’s work and studied the bones, and I’ve let myself explore some new things. I’ve taken the time to notice things about how and when I work, and what feeds me, and all of that is important. Because here’s the lesson I’ve learned from this time hanging out in the inbetween, in that scary quiet space before the words fill in:
Being a writer is about so much more than the moment. See, when I was in highschool, hunched over my aging Gateway at 11 pm throwing words up onto the page with absolutely no idea what I was doing and only a goal of telling a story, I had this burning drive. And in that time, that was being a writer: the sheer, helpless, undirected production of words. Then in college, when I spent three years not writing and studying everything but writing, that was being a writer too: a disciplined production of well-researched arguments, the development of the ability to give focused attention on demand, the dedication to knowing people and how they think and function both within and outside of themselves, the structuring of the world into systems. And after college, when I wrote here and there, books with abominable punctuation and books with entirely unlikeable characters and books that had far more passion than plot, that was being a writer: learning structure, learning how to tell a story, learning what the flow and the rhythm of a book feels like, learning that dialogue uses commas and not periods.
Each of those were individual moments, and there have been many more. Being a writer in each of those moments looked very unique. Sometimes it was more visible or measurable than others. Sometimes it was productive and other times contemplative. Sometimes it filled me with doubt and other times with joy. But those were unique seasons in my life, each one important and valuable. I would not be right here, right now, without each one of those seasons.
Why should this one be any different? You, as a writer, will grow and change. That’s what we all hope for, right, to be better every month and year than before? Growth is good! It may not seem like growth in the moment, but that’s okay. You’ll see it six months or a year from now, and you’ll write it, too. Don’t spoil this season by being afraid. Wherever you are – joyful abandon, quiet learning, nervous first steps – embrace it. And keep moving.