So I’m about to use this post as catharsis. I’ve done something tremendous. So momentous that it’s a little unsettling. Or maybe I’ve made it unsettling by overthinking. But I can’t help but wonder if this is a normal part of the process once a writer has submitted the final draft of her novel to an editor.
I received edits from my editor a couple months ago, and I immediately went into hiding. All my thoughts were focused on one thing: revise. The closer I came to the deadline, the more intense the focus became. Sure I asked for a couple extension. My book is my baby and I wanted to hold onto it for as long as I could. Then it came to the last extension. The book needed to move toward production, and I had squeezed out every possible moment.
“There is a ruthlessness to the creative act. It often involves a betrayal of the status quo.” ― Alan Watt
Then on Tuesday morning it happened. It was the first day of June. The year was 2021. Just after Labor Day weekend. Rain had been falling off and on for days. Tahlequah, Oklahoma had just left behind it’s harshest storms and true summer sun was within grasp. That morning I woke and said, “I’m ready to let the book go. It’s time.” I had spent all my mental energy on this day.
Fast forward about two hours, I typed a short note in an email, clicked attach, and then the last step: send. It was done. The final manuscript shot into cyberspace and landed inside the inbox of my editor and agent. Congratulatory emails returned. My final draft was officially submitted.
What happened next was a complete shock. I thought I’d be relieved and excited and would run around the office giving everyone high fives and people would take me out for a meal and some drinks and I’d fly in a jet to Peru and dine with elite writers from multiple hemispheres. But no. That did not happen.
What did happen? I was instantly depressed. I was suddenly sad. I was oddly withdrawn.
I thought, What’s going on with me? This can’t be normal.
“Writing is a struggle against silence.” ― Carlos Fuentes
I had spent so much time focused on the revisions and the moment I’d click send that I had not even thought about what was to come afterwards.
The only thing I can equate it to is the same feeling I had when my three adult children moved out. Like the time when my oldest son and I had breakfast one day. An innocent enough meal. But it was the first meal we had together where he’d leave in his car to his apartment and I’d leave in my car to go to my home. He wasn’t coming home with me. He was no longer a child, and what we once had would never be the same again.
I suddenly realized I was mourning the loss of my book. I’d never delve into its pages the same way again. I’d reread the pages at some point in the future, but it’d never be the same. I no longer had anymore influence on it’s words, it’s chapters, it’s characters. Now they had to do everything thing on their own.
This was the moment I realized why I kept asking for extensions. Certainly, there were tweaks to be made, but I couldn’t deny there was this sense of trying to hold on, trying to have one more moment, one more memory before it all changed. Even if I didn’t consciously realize it. I was holding on as long as I could.
It’s scary when your child steps into the big, bright world. There are so many obstacles and pitfalls. But you can’t be there for everything. To a certain extent, your baby needs to make mistakes–no matter how young you perceive him to be.
“Some part of me knew from the first that what I wanted was not reality but myth.” ― Stephen King
I’ve been working on this novel for a very long time. The oldest story in the novel was written in 2008. That’s 14 years ago! By the time my book hits the market, it’ll have been 15 years from the moment the oldest story was written. It took one and a half decades for this novel-in-stories to reach maturity. That in itself is a unique story to share.
But I have to move forward. I’ve popped open my other two novels and added a sentence in one, reread a few pages in the other, and stared at the line of chapters running down my flash drive. I want to be ready to move forward. But I might have to give myself a little more time. I thought this post was going to be my release point. But now I’m suddenly realizing that I’m still trying to hold on a moment longer.