For the past two-and-a-half to three years, I’ve been writing a novel. I would wake up, scratch out 1,000 words, then move to my real work of the day. When I took a full-time position, I would try to write and edit before work. That didn’t always happen, so I would try at night. That also didn’t always happen. Then I returned to freelancing, and one goal I wanted to accomplish was that book. So I went back to editing, re-editing, and re-re-re-re-editing.
Finally, I finished. I had read it enough. Tweaked it, destroyed it, rebuilt it, refined it, beautified it. I had done what I could, without continuing the process of revising ad infinitum. Two weeks ago, I simply realized I needed to move onto the next step.
Of course, now begins a new struggle of actually selling the book to a publisher, which will come with all sorts of additional edits and changes. But that process – finding an agent, finding a publisher, getting an editor, and seeing it in paper – leaves me with little control. Besides sending out queries, talking to friends who might know someone, and following up, there’s little I can do on a day-to-day basis to move this along faster. After all, the agents have to read it, like it, consider it, and convince their shop to pursue it. Then, following that, a whole other process begins that I can only imagine at this point.
So, based on what I can control, I finished a 78,000 word novel – a dream of mine. But I don’t yet feel accomplished for doing so. I almost feel sad that I don’t have benchmarks to reach, word counts to finish, pages to edit. Because while writing the book, I had those clear daily accomplishments to work towards and look forward to. Now, it’s mostly email and wait. Excruciating!
I’ve heard of this happening to people who train for a long-term athletic goal, like a marathon or triathlon. After the months of preparation and high of crossing the finish line, depression seeps in over the next few days – once the soreness wears off – as athletes struggle to find order to their life, since they no longer have a training regimen or another goal. I felt it following a triathlon I ran in 2012. Maybe I’m experiencing the same after-shocks now?
My wife thinks I should shout from the rooftops. “You just finished a novel! You know how many people dream of doing that?” And I should. I feel I will once I see that people enjoy it. But maybe that’s why I don’t yet get a sense that I’m done. Because I’m still waiting for the acknowledgement that I’ve finished from an outside source, other than my own writer’s intuition. Maybe I need someone else to say, “Good job.”
If that’s the case, I hate that I feel that way. You don’t write a novel because you think you will make millions. You hope upon hope that others will read it, but you don’t really know. So I constantly told myself, “I want to write this novel because I want to write it.” There’s truth to that, but now that I’m done, I want to share it. Even though I’m no longer in full-control of the process, I want others to read it. Comment on it. Hopefully, love it.
This feeling may drive other authors down the same path. At first they just want a book published. Then they just want a good review. Then just want a best seller. Then just want a Pulitzer. That constant need will justify the hours upon hours spent hunched over a laptop, aching over whether it’s ‘to’ or ‘too’ or ‘beautiful’ or ‘lovely.’ With the right recognition, all the excruciating time spent debating the mundane will make it worth it. It’s something tangible that tells you that you’re done.
That’s the frustrating part about writing. You never really know when to stop. And having that moment to relax, celebrate, and reflect on the accomplishment sounds absolutely delightful.
Until I get that signal, though, I’ve got emails to send.
If you’re interested in reading the first three chapters of the working-science fiction novel ‘The Office of Time Control‘ or if you’re a book agent looking for more information, you can contact me here.