It’s been a few weeks now since I finished my manuscript revisions and set about not editing anymore while it’s being read by an agent (and friend). Thanksgiving has come and gone, Christmas races after it undaunted by my ill-preparedness. I’ve recovered from carb overloads and booze headaches, from family togetherness and separations. I’ve flow from Brooklyn to Texas and back again with a three year old boy and a yorkie.
Before that, on the dreaded and beloved Black Friday, we went shopping. It had been about an hour when I lost my will to live. (I have a low threshold for retail warfare, I’m aware this is lame.) Not sure if it was the 100th over-priced sweater that made me itch or the sunny shopgirl that tried to sell me a pair of jewel-toned skinny jeans with a matching beret. But something sent me spiraling into my own form of introspection that involved a skinny margarita and queso, and a diatribe about why I don’t have a second child. I emerged feeling uncertain and inadequate, slightly bloated and a tidbit vindicated.
Then the inevitable pining began. The one I seem to be falling into lately when I realize I’m mostly done with my manuscript and I don’t know how to be away from that world and those characters.
A writer friend of mine told me recently that every writer rides some form of emotional roller-coaster upon completion of a major project. His advice? Begin something new. When he said this, I felt entirely certain he was kidding. And entirely sure that was impossible. So I made him clarify. He said, “Even if it never turns into anything, beginning a new project and distancing yourself from the one out for query, will ultimately help with the mountains and valleys.”
I thought about this for a while. My brain felt zapped. My emotions were ragged. Part of me felt so done with the pressure of characters not letting me sleep, and words not being perfect, and the other part felt voided. As a writer, characters voices, their arguments, their journey provides a certain sense of purpose that nothing else really can.
When I was in my early 20s, I was a receptionist at a title company in Texas. I loathed this job. (I was thankful for stable work and benefits, etc., but overall just really didn’t excel at service oriented work.) When my husband was finishing up his bachelors though, it was that job that paid the bills. After two years of it I began to wonder if my life would only amount to this: a series of jobs and paychecks and living for the weekend. That’s when I began to write again. It was writing that led to accept my job, and then my son’s birth which led me to want more from writing. When Sam was born, I discovered a new part of me. A part willing to try harder for the things she desired, and a part able to define those desires more clearly.
In the years since Sam’s birth,I have taken a lot of the steps necessary to do just that. I have discovered who I want to be and who I don’t want to be. As this year wraps up, the person I am has had to accept she can’t live without characters chattering to each other, or worlds forming, and in turn my loved one’s can never be without them either. I will never be far from the tap of a keyboard or the scribble of a pen. I will never be far from the ebb and flow of creative pursuit. I would encourage you — whatever you endeavor to achieve — to first accept this simple truth. We become the best version of ourselves not by following our best laid plans, but by taking chances on the things we really want. Moving to New York was like that. Having my son was the same. Everyone has those catalysts, and everyone makes those choices. Begin something new, no matter where it leads you. (Or, in other words, get your groove on.)