(Cheers to the words!)
The first book I ever wrote, I dreamt. I mulled over the idea of writing it into a book for a day or two, then sat down and did it. I wrote the first book in a week, or at least the first full draft that week. The whole experience was lifechanging for me, as cliche as that sounds, it is true. I knew writing was something that I would do for the rest of my life. I am very blessed not to have a shortage of creative people in my life, and I remember them talking from time to time how creativity wasn’t flowing, and their process was stilted. I remember thinking to myself how ridiculous this sounded… Then karma laughed.
From the first book on, I have never stopped writing. The words have always flowed out of me pretty easily; the inspiration was there. Sure, I’ve had difficulties with sections of every piece I have ever written, but these were manageable hurdles. I am the sort of person that when I set my mind to something and commit, that’s it, I’m not done until I have accomplished what I set out to. “Arse in chair,” is what we say in our house when it comes to writing, meaning sit your butt in the chair and just write, no excuses. Sounds simple enough.. again karma laughed.
Last May, I ran into some health issues, and the scare of a lifetime thus far, yet I kept writing, it saw me through. I poured all of my nervous energy into McKinley Park, letting myself fall into Rachel and Ben’s world. Writing was a haven and comfort as I nervously waited for test results. I was also raising my two children, one who has special needs, working a full-time and sometimes demanding job, and completing my Master’s degree in public relations, but no matter what, I kept writing. My test results came back, and although I was in the clear, I still needed significant surgery, life-altering surgery.
I don’t know anyone who likes surgery, but I hate it. The anaesthesia makes me violently ill for days, but there was no way around it. So the surgery was scheduled; meanwhile my most challenging course of my graduate career kicked off at the same time, a statistics course disguised as a research course. I am not a numbers person; I am a letters woman. I knew with surgery and this course, which I was not going to defer, that I was going to have to put writing on hold for a while. I finished up McKinley Park and stopped writing. It was the weirdest sensation not to be building a world for two people to fall in love in. There was this nagging feeling like I was forgetting something. I suppress the urge to write, knowing that school, work, and healing were going to take all of the bandwidth that I had.
I made it through the surgery with relative ease, and I am grateful for it. I am usually a complications magnet, but things went smoothly. I was told that it was going to be painful, but I had, had two kids by C-section, one of which was 10lbs! I knew pain; I wasn’t scared. This was a whole other ball game, folks. I couldn’t write even if I wanted to. As the days at home dragged on, I wanted to write, but I knew I couldn’t, between being too tired, or hopped up on pain pill, and not in the good slightly unstable author way. (That’s a joke.) Then while I was home healing, the statistics course went from a difficulty setting of 6 out of 10 to a 10 out of 10. Have you ever tried to compute statistics while on heavy pain medication? Let me tell you; it is an experience, one that I never want to repeat.
Slowly my body got stronger, and I returned to work. The statistics course from hell ended and the next course in my graduate program started. I thought to myself that I was finally in a place where I could start writing again. McKinley Park was just about done being published; it felt like the right time to start something new. I was ready…. but where had the words gone? Where was the inspiration that had once come so easily? Reassuring myself that this would take time, I didn’t push, something in me knew not to push. I know I have mentioned it before, but I am not a patient woman. I try to be, but I know I am not. Inspiration was not happening fast enough for me.
Finally, I had a thread of an idea, and I sat down and started writing, only to pitter out two chapters in. It was forced; the words weren’t flowing as they had before. I let myself stop, something I never do. I knew this wasn’t the right idea for right now; I could always come back to it. I found myself missing writing, but not able to write creatively. One of my biggest pet peeves are those who are creative and drone on about process, I am the “arse in chair,” girl, yet here I was. Now what? If you miss it, then put your arse in the chair and start writing.
While I was preparing for and recovering from surgery, I also put my querying efforts for The Lake Michigan Affair on hold. I knew I did not have the bandwidth to give the querying process the time it required. I told myself to take the time not writing to focus my efforts here instead. That did not go well either. Deep down, I secretly wondered if I had broken this magical gift that had allowed me to write so effortlessly before. Had I suppressed the desire to write into complete dormancy?
The inspiration was not there, to accompany the words, even though I engaged in things that I knew would spark my creativity. Everything felt flat. I continued to push, to no avail. I was not one of the writers I had previously rolled my eyes at, as karma’s laughter was now a full side-aching, knee-slapping, tears down the face roar of laughter. I was not pleased.
Then the other night as I was laying in bed, I had the most surreal experience. It was almost like the characters I had written were all suddenly there, fresh, at the top of my mind. It felt like a hug from friends. There was something about it that was comforting and reassuring. I started to think about each of them and their stories. All of the other feelings about writing fell away, and it felt freeing. I fell asleep that night feeling like I had sat in my grandmother’s kitchen, that warm feeling of being loved. The next morning, still thinking about the experience from the night before I sat back and thought about the stories I had created.
My first book has a great story, but the writing was poor. It was the first thing I had ever written creatively at that point. I had planned to rewrite it last spring in California, on the coast where it takes place, but life had other plans. I told myself I would not revise it until I was on the coast. I wanted to be where the story took place. I opened the book in Scrivner and started picking at the first chapter, making corrections and reworking parts of it. Before I knew it, I was well into chapter 3. Those first characters I had ever created were there, welcoming me back. In the back of my head, I kept telling myself to stop; this was not when and where this project was supposed to get rewritten.
Finally, last night as I sat and rewrote/ edited further into the book, I told that inner voice to shut the hell up. Now is the time to rewrite this book, I knew I needed the familiar, needed to see that even in my first attempt to write, I was capable. As I write this now, I am itching to dig back in and continue working on the book, the desire is there, and it feels great. Maybe this book is like writing with training-wheels until I am ready and steady enough to create from scratch again. Whatever it is, I am incredibly grateful and going with it.