Two weeks ago I wrote about not making time for my novel. I pledged to work on it every day, even if it was only for ten or fifteen minutes.
I’d like to say that I didn’t write a post last week because I was deep into working on that book.
But I wasn’t.
I was finalizing the handouts for the workshop I gave for SCBWI North Texas. I was reading and commenting on nine first pages for my Picture Book Workshop at Lighthouse. I was reading for a class I was attending, packing for my TX trip, going to Boulder to listen to Natalie Goldberg, revising a picture book so I could send it back to my agent.
I was doing everything EXCEPT working on my novel. Oh, I fiddled a bit. I opened the doc and re-read the revised scene that I consider a breakthrough. And that gave me an idea for a new scene that would follow it so I jotted some notes. I tightened another scene. But my heart wasn’t in it. I could sense I was avoiding the novel, but I wasn’t sure why.
I paid attention to what I was feeling and noticed two things:
- I was losing enthusiasm for it. In spite of revising that scene into something really good, I was feeling the weight of what was still left to do. But more than that…
- I was experiencing fear of failure. When I dug a little deeper, I saw that my waning enthusiasm was tied to something else. I’d allowed the next phase–sending to my agent, more revisions, submission to publishers–to creep in. I had started wondering if the book was worth publishing, if after all these years and rewrites and revisions anyone would really want to read it. Was this really going to add anything new to the conversation? Would there just be a bunch of passes like I’d been getting on my picture books? (I’m feeling this in spite of my agent’s enthusiasm for the project, her notes that it’s a beautiful and commercial book. Geez)
Why spend all this time writing if it wasn’t going to “go anywhere?”
I was writing this book for me. I didn’t realize this until I dug deeper into those fears above.
How did I know? Because I haven’t shifted to either one of the other two books that have been nudging me. Because the book is about shame and guilt, something that I allowed to steer my decisions and my life in directions I really didn’t want to go. When I sat with that for awhile, saw the book as a way out of my own experiences of guilt and shame, I suddenly felt a spark of enthusiasm.
Holy crap. Just as I wrote that paragraph above, I realized something else. It’s not just about writing this story. It’s about experiencing the process of writing the story. I need to go through the process of finishing this book, no matter how painful and slow at times. Maybe to learn something about myself. Maybe so I can share the experience with other writers. Why doesn’t matter. What matters is that right here, right now, I have a deep, sudden knowing that I must write the book. I must experience the process of writing the book.