Allow me a paragraph or eight of indulgence, a little pity party of prose.
I haven’t been posting as frequently or as humorously in recent weeks. My posts have been heavy. Weighty. They’ve got chains around their wrists and cement shoes on their feet.
My sense of depth perception is off. Way off. I am lonely. I’m walking around singing All By Myself and Only the Lonely. It’s a situation I’ve imagined myself right into. I am a lonely writer high on a hill of my own creation. Lay ee odl lay ee odl lay hee hoo.
It’s the book.
Who among us who dream in words hasn’t fantasized of finished sentences dancing across the page? Who among us hasn’t fetishized the notion of a room of one’s own, both brick and mortar and metaphorical? Who among us hasn’t fancied the space to write and write and write? I have that right now. I’ve got a room of my own, in every context. And it’s lonely.
If the heart is a lonely hunter, than a writer is solitary slayer..and not in a good way, like Buffy.
I am knee-deep in adjectives, mucking out the waste. I am swimming in sentences, adrift on a sea of prose. I am lost in a good, but unpublished book, hiding in the space between words, trying desperately to give each one the attention it deserves. Sounds perfect, right? Until you look at your word count and realize you still have a fifty thousand left to coddle.
When I finished the first draft of the book in January, I was 75% happy with it. I knew it needed work and flushing out and editing. I knew it needed to be re-jigged and prettified. I guess I underestimated how much more work 25% can be.
Oh, I’ve been crafty. I’ve cut and pasted. I’ve sewn and stitched up plot holes. I’ve time warped back and planted seeds that lay dormant until the last quarter of the book when they blossom into glorious flower. I’m sanding. I’m shining. I’m shoring up the foundation. I’m painting and decorating and hanging out a welcome sign.
But for what?
I have no deadline other than the one I’ve imposed on myself. As the mother of two young children who are rapidly approaching summer break, with an Easter break and numerous long weekends thrown in, I’m desperate to finish.
I fear the book may be the death of me, and yet, I live in fear that I will die before I finish the book.
I never want to write about depression again. I never want to describe the woods again. If I have to write about another layer of pine needles muffling footsteps I may just kill myself. I long to move on, and yet I know myself. I know I won’t be able to truly move on I until I finish.
If you cross an albatross with a millstone, do you get a white whale?
And for what?
My shoulder blades ache not with the imperative of wings, as one of my favorite poems promises, but from sitting hunched over a laptop. My finger tips are uncomfortably numb. My friends have stopped calling.
I have tapped into my heart song to write this story. I have mainlined my soul. I have bled ink, have tossed and turned at night trying to make sense of what to do with characters, how to make sense of it all. I have spent hours and days that could have been spent with friends, with family, in the sunshine, making sure that each sentence sings and each detail dances.
(Ok, it’s been a gray winter, so maybe not in the sunshine, but still!)
And for what?
I have no guarantee. There is no one waiting to publish this book with a beautiful cover and a nice marketing campaign behind it. Is it enough, will it be enough to have completed it when it is done? Will having written it be reward in itself?
My gauges are off. I’m in too deep. I am a lonely hunter, unsure if the stalking and the hiding and the hard to remove camouflage makeup will pay off in the end.
High on the hill was a lonely writer.
Lay ee odl lay ee odl-oo.
24 Comments Add yours
Hang in there! And good luck! I’m sure it’s easy to be your own worst critic.
Thank you. Most definitely. And my shoulders hurt. They really do!
As my mom used to say, “Keep your chin up”. Hugs to you.
Thank you. I normally don’t feel sorry for myself (in public anyway…), but there you go. My vaguely human side :-).
At least you know you have a comforting community of like-minds who completely understand.
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You know “for what.” That’s the answer, you know. I loved the poem, thanks. And to hear you ache, because I can relate, but if you’re in a lonely room, I’m still out on the street peering in windows.
I do…sometimes. And then I don’t. I used to think it would be enough just to have done it, to hold it high above my head like a trophy. Now, however, I’m not so sure. At least not all the time. See? I’m all over the place. I’m glad you like the poem, it is one of my favorites. I think that line is just about one of the most gorgeous sentences I’ve ever read–so much promise in a few words. It’s also incredibly apt as there is a running mythology theme in the novel and Icarus comes up a fair bit as reference. Get yourself a room. You have too much to say and you say it too beautifully not to. Thank you.
Revision of long material kills me. I can pick away at shorter stuff, but knowing there are 250 pages out there keeps me idle. I started a writing conference with a friend last year (in a big tent in my backyard) and we are going to do it again this year and a few more people are showing up. This year my goal is to work on revising two of my novels…we will see how that works out. I wish you lots of writing luck.
I want to come and hang out in your backyard tent. I suffer from a similar problem–I get too caught up in the ands and buts and ifs, the semi colons and the beat of each word in each sentence that when I think about doing that for every word (and as of now, there are about 112K) I just want to bury my head in a bag of Cheese Doodles.
I’ll save a seat in the tent.
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I wrote about six hundred words today and was exhausted. But I think I may keep a few of them.
Have you considered joining an online group and getting an objective eye to help with editing?
Hello! Nice to see you around again! 600 words is nothing to sneeze at. 600 words can bridge the gap between good and great, between sense and non-sense, between almost there and done. I have some trusted readers who are helping me, and they have been huge helps. The problem is me. The way I wrote this, in chunks that weren’t linear even though the story is, it’s been difficult to remember who had what and where this way, so it is physically a lot of going backward and foreword in the draft and finding things. It’s my own fault. If (when?) I do this again, it will be written one chapter at a time….but to answer your question, I have considered it, and honestly, I am a bit intimidated by the thought of it.
I think you write because you have to. And you hope that your words will be read and reach someone’s heart someday. No need to question why, art happens. Just treasure it.
You are right. Write? I do write because I have to. It is what I do. And yet I desperately hope that when it’s done there will be an audience waiting to receive it. Is that conceit? Is it hubris? Naiveté? Will I take pride in producing something I am happy with? Of course, a million times over. Would that be even better if it was read and enjoyed by others? I’d be lying if I said ‘no.’. Every day I sit down and think how can I pull another word from my brain and every day they seem to come. For that, I am profoundly grateful. That, I treasure.
Oh dear Dina! I’m pretty sure I’m a contributing factor to your sense of isolation – you sense off the book and hear a deafening silence…
I’m in love with your book, I’ve been pouring and pouring over it – and I KNOW your characters -they are alive, believable and so sympathetic.
Apologies if my radio silence has contributed to your angst – I want to give you helpful honest feedback which I am slowly compling with a goal of getting it back to you this weekend (timing, eh?).
Don’t worry – reading your book has only elevated you and your talents and that this book is GOOD. Really good. Publishable good.
Do not beat yourself up! I’m thrilled you like it of course, and now excited for you to read the 2nd draft which is of course totally different but much better ;-). No, same characters, same story, same settings, very different structure and much prettier sentences. I am really curious now if your likes/dislikes were the things that were niggling at me in the first place. I bet you they were, which is why I trusted you in the first place. I was talking about this process today to R and likening it to the last month or so of pregnancy. You see an end in sight but you know you’ve got a long few weeks ahead of you. Nothing fits, you don’t care what your hair looks like but you know that on the other side, life will resume to something resembling a new normal. It’s been a REALLY REALLY BIZARRE process. x
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I certainly don’t know from personal experience, but I have to imagine that every writer of an amazing book goes through a period of time like you’re describing. It sounds agonizing but my guess is that you’ll be looking back at this period sometime in the not-too-distant future chuckling and telling yourself thank goodness you hung in there because it feels so good to be on the other side. 🙂
It’s really not unlike having a baby! I know I will be pleased to have done it when it’s done. But right now I really am DONE. Unfortunately, I’m not done. :-). Thank you for all the kind words though, they help immensely!
I’m pretty sure you’re going to have to suck it up, Dina. Because yodeling is not legal in Europe except in the Swiss Alps.
Your book will be worth it, I’m sure of it. The yodeling, not so much.
I’m going to yodel my way through Denmark, Elyse. The Swiss can come and fine me ;-). Thank you. It does mean a lot.
I can so relate to this post and being in the revision cave. Sometimes I ask myself why I’m doing this to myself. “Because I care,” is the answer I give.
It’s nice to know I’m not just making this up, having never done it before. I think on the day I wrote this I really didn’t care anymore. And that was heart breaking in and of itself. Now that there is an ever-expanding light at the end of my tunnel, it is slightly better. But I am looking forward to a total reboot when this is done. I’ve really let myself go!!
I just finished another dissertation. There were days 300 words was all I wrote and each one felt like each one was sucking the life out of me. Keep chipping away. Have you blogged about your book? What are you writing? I’m very curious/interested, do you have a link? Sorry if it’s obvious and I’ve missed it!
I feel like I’ve blogged incessantly about my book ;-). I just finished a solid enough draft the other day that I actually typed the word “END”. That felt good. It’s a coming of age novel about a family dealing with depression. Right now the 2nd draft is out there with my trusty readers. As soon as I get back any corrections/suggestions, I think I will be ready to start making enquiries. Which is of course, exciting and terrifying. So, hopefully I’ll have something to link soon!