I recently wrote two posts called “Finished” and “Finished, Part 2” about my feelings after submitting the manuscript of my fourth book to my publisher. As you may have surmised from the title of this week’s post, I’m back at the drawing board. Having talked to my editor on the phone on Friday and subsequently receiving her chapter notes via email, I’ve got three weeks to make revisions to my manuscript in order to meet the publisher’s goal of getting the book out next spring.
It’s a daunting task. Many of the things that are need fixing are significant, including (interestingly, in light of Jason’s post of 6/18) an unlikable protagonist—or at least one who’s motivations aren’t clear—and a pervading sense of sadness where there should be “more joy.” I’d like to write about the lack of joy I feel while sitting down to face these revisions, or how weird it is to be struggling with my fourth manuscript the week before my third book is released to modest acclaim, but I can’t. If I give in to those impulses, I’ll never get my work done, and self-indulgence is a luxury I can’t presently afford.
In The Courage to Write, Ralph Keyes says, “Fear does concentrate the mind wonderfully.” But for me, fear turns the mind blank, keeps me sleepless and clumsy. I chase after tangents like a cat chasing butterflies, trying to pin down anything bright that flits by. Regular meals and evenings out with friends are suspended, to say nothing of laundry and housekeeping. And the calendar seems to hang over everything like a ticking bomb. At this point, writing feels more like typing. You have to trust that your fingers are somehow connected, not to your traitorous brain, but to your imagination and your instincts.
I spoke at a writing conference last weekend, where someone remarked that mine were “good problems to have.” And I suppose, from an unpublished writer’s perspective, they are. But I hope those reading this will get a little bit of insight into the reality that being a professional writer with obligations to meet and a reputation to uphold comes with its own set of challenges. You might get a great review in a national magazine, but there’s little time to take it in before you’ve got to sit back down at the computer and wrestle with the devil.
Good problems to have? I’ll let you know after I’ve met my deadline.