I’ve noticed of late that people are afraid to ask me how the novel’s going. They ask it quietly, like they’re giving me the chance to pretend I didn’t hear the question if it’s best for everyone. They ask it like they are holding out an apple to a horse with very sharp teeth. They ask it like you might as a doctor, “So, how bad is it, Doc?”
But they ask it, and for that, I love my people.
So…how is the novel going, you ask?
Well, today is your lucky day because last week was a great week of writing! I’m working on the third draft and every chapter I opened turned up a handful of gems I’d stowed away and forgotten about. Editing was easy, even…enjoyable last week. Had I happened upon a meadow full of daisies, I would have slipped off my shoes and danced in it.
I can’t believe I’m saying that! Normally, writing feels a lot like punching myself in the face while also yelling, “Punch harder! Do it right this time!” I remember telling Kevin on Monday, “I don’t want to write because I’m in a good mood, and I know I won’t be after I write.”
In July I attended a virtual conference where I heard dozens of other authors say, “This is haaaaard!” One of my favorite authors (Grace Lin) said her family said she’s always in a bad mood when she’s writing a novel. Another favorite (Mac Barnett), whose books are so light and hilarious I imagined him tossing back cream sodas and laughing himself out of the chair the whole time he writes—he said he hates writing. It’s the worst. It makes him miserable. But he loves when it’s all said and done.
After hearing so many writers say that writing is hard, it often isn’t fun, that they hate what they write most days, and that they are emotional basket cases—well it made me feel so normal.
I’ve learned so much about myself in the past three years since I started writing the novel. Mostly, that it takes more than three years to write a novel. And that is hard for someone as goal-oriented and impatient as me.
I’ve been learning to throw some just-for-fun writing into my week and not berate myself for taking that time away from the novel, because that’s the stuff that keeps it fun. Until recently, if the writing was ever too fun or not hard enough, I wasn’t really counting it. Now I’m absolutely counting it.
Like when I saw Mac Barnett at a (different) conference and my illustrator friend, Leanne Hatch, slid over her phone showing the sweater he was wearing on a Gucci website, listed for $$$$. I couldn’t help myself. I wrote a picture book called Mac and the $3,000 Sweater, and that same friend made a picture for it.
(Did I include the word “incredibly” in front of “talented?” She keeps winning awards and I’m completely in awe of her.)
Even though this is not a book that would ever get published (and you should know that anytime I say that, part of my brain is saying, Yes it is. It totally could be. It absolutely should be!)—even though it’s not, I made it! Out of nothing! And my friends and I giggled and giggled about it. And one of them made something else! And I had a good week of writing.
So overall, I have a healthy, stable attitude about writing on myself lately, which is fabulous except for one little problem; with such a healthy, stable attitude, what on earth am I going to write about?!
WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Lemony garlicky beans