I was making coffee this morning, as I usually do. My son was in the background, staging an early morning battle between the skeletons and the power rangers – how those guys get up early enough to be ready for the fight, I’ll never know – and I was thinking about my plan for the day.
My main goal today is to finish the re-write of my manuscript. I’m close to the end, so it’s a very achievable goal. As the thought crossed my mind, I slammed my bean grinder a little harder than I needed to, frothing my milk with extra vigor.
The idea of finishing my book was depressing me. Actually depressing me. Leaving that indefinable lump in my throat like something between bottled up tears and too much spicy food.
“Wait wait wait, brain.” I said. My brain listened, naturally. “This is just the rewrite. I still have another full edit (maybe two, god help me). Besides, after that, I can start book two.”
My brain eased up, the depression fading back once again. After all, you’re never really done writing. Hell, I can write short stories with my characters as long as I want, to keep them fresh and part of me.
But then something else happened. The knot came back, a little more sticky, a little more solid. Now I was afraid.
For criminy sakes, brain! (I always wanted to say that, by the way) What more do you want?
The milk reached a lovely froth by now, so maybe thinking about writing should be part of my daily coffee routine. Either way, I was able to break my fear into two parts.
- Oh my god starting again.
Writing a book is terrifying. It overwhelms your mind and pushes you to creative overdrive, filled with sublime moments of joy and excitement, as well as crushing lows of frustration and defeat.
When you’re in the middle of giving birth to another world, it encompasses everything. Everything else starts to come second, and you watch the growing distance like you’re watching a movie (or the movie version of your book…), in horror, just wanting to scream at the main character. No, me, it’s not that important – life is the important thing – stop obsessing!
But you don’t stop obsessing. Cant. It’s exhausting. Draining in every way. You get frustrated with people and things getting between you and your outpour of creativity. Kids, a day job, eating.
You try to keep balance. Maybe it’s just me, but creative balance isn’t something I’ve learned well yet. If you have any tips on this, I’m all ears.
So, the idea of starting a new book is thrilling. The impossible highs and lows and the sheer joy of creation. But the mental exhaustion terrifies me.
- My poor characters.
As with any good story, conflict drives its wheels. I have lots of ideas. An idea web filled with a disorganized mess of jot notes. My characters, of course, are central to the whole thing. How do I torture them today?
But the thing is, I love my characters. I feel them. They’re as much me as I am. I know in the next book I need to separate them again. I need to force one of them into a leadership position, which terrifies him. I need to isolate them from each other and make them face their pain alone.
But how do I do that to people I love? The very idea of it makes me anxious.
Writing the first book was a little different. I was learning them. Their trials shaped them into what they are. But now, I know them. Now, it’s just mean.
This process is difficult on a lot of levels that are hard to define and even harder to explain. I’m sad to stop, proud to be done, excited to begin again, and terrified to start. Oh, and a little guilty for doing mean things to generally good people.
Does that make me crazy?
Or just masochistic.
I’m writing today without answers, but hopefully with a little companionship for those poor writers caught in the throes of their craft. The best advice I can give is to keep the journey in sight, rather than the goal. We write because we love writing. We write because we have worlds within us demanding to break free.
And I know that not one of us would change a thing.