Great stuff that can happen to your mind while writing a novel
So, a week ago, when I finished the book, I realized that there was no way I’d be able to sleep, so I sat down and started writing a massive blog entry that I then abruptly finished in the middle by passing out. I posted that entry in five parts, the last of which was yesterday.
That entry was about all the terrible stuff that happened to my mind and body as I was writing. But there was also a lot of good stuff. Mostly that good stuff was a chemical rush: a sheer euphoria that was a lot like that caused by, say, alcohol (without dimming the mind or anything). But that euphoria also masked a lot of the other good feelings, which have become more apparent to me as they slowly faded over the past few days.
Basically, it’s kind of disappointing to come back from a sprint of that nature and find that life is still going on. There’s still work to do. There’s still people to see. My car still needs fixing. I still have all these stories that need revising and submitting. And, even more than that, the novel itself still has a long road to travel before it will ever see publication. I don’t just revision: it has to pass before the eyes of a lot of editors and agents before anyone would publish it, and it’s very likely that this is where the whole thing will end…that it will never see the light of day (not trying to be a downer, that’s just the fate of the vast majority of novels that get written).
And all of that is okay. I have my 646 rejection slips…I know how to persevere and how to deal with rejection.
But when I was writing the book, I wasn’t thinking like this at all. Oh, I occasionally thought about how I knew nothing about submitting or pitching books, and I wondered what kind of marketing category it would fall under. But for long periods of time those concerns fell away. Oftentimes, while working, I had the feeling – for periods of hours or days – that I was doing something absolutely worthwhile…that I was doing the right thing for me and that I was doing it at the right time and in the right way.
For me, it’s not uncommon to have a persistent feeling that I am forgetting to do something or that I am ignoring some vital task. Sometimes I have to sit down and go through each of my responsibilities, one by one, to reassure myself that this is not the case. And even then, that feeling won’t quite go away.
But for more than a week, I had a feeling that was the opposite of that sense of incompletion. And that was kind of a gift.
But now it’s gone. And what has returned is a feeling that is very similar to the malaise that led me to write the novel in the first place. If anything, that malaise can be stronger, at times, since by writing the novel I have given myself a number of additional responsibilities (for revision, submission, etc) that had not really been on the horizon before.
I’ve also started to revise my novel. In general, I am fairly pleased with it, but there is a lot of doubt that I did not have a week ago. There can be a thing in it that I enjoy, but I can also see how that thing might be very bad. I guess what this post is about is the reintroduction of substantial amounts of doubt into my life, after having spent an unaccustomed amount of time being free from it.
This kind of doubt is the normal operating condition under which I write. But I think that I would like to start killing that doubt and start working within a more timeless and personal space: one without imaginary readers and imaginary editors. I don’t mind the real readers and editors, of course, but I am a bit tired to be sharing all this headspace with so many phantoms.
Many writers parrot the truism that drafting is a time to turn off your “internal editor” and “just write crap,” while during revision one becomes more critical. But that is not how I think of things at all. During the writing process I don’t fear the input of any voice that is about the work: the voices that are commenting on the words themselves. But I’d like to stop hearing – entirely stop hearing – all the voices that just scream chaff: the incessant internal monologue I wrote about in my last post that mainly concerns itself with possible fame, or fortune, or failure. That stuff is not only anxiety-making, it is tawdry.
Anyways, I think that this is going to be the last post on this topic for awhile. Thanks to everyone who read (and maybe enjoyed?) these posts.