An update.

Things haven’t been great, guys.

A little less than a month ago, I hit my year mark. A year since I decided to take time off from work and pursue writing seriously.

A year.

Things kind of imploded at that point. An entire year had passed, and what did I have to show for it? A tiny, wrinkled stack of a first draft, pages stained with wine and coffee, notes scribbled in margins and in between lines, pages curling from being carried around so many times. It’s so small, just a tiny pile of papers bound together with a couple alligator clips at the top. It doesn’t look like a year. It hardly looks like anything.

And what do I have ahead of me? A mountain of revisions. Feedback from critique readers. More revisions. Querying for an undertermined amount of time. The work yawns out ahead of me, a dark trail stretching out for who knows how long.

If it was easy, everyone would do it, right? But I know I could have done better, could have worked harder this past year. I feel like I failed. Like I failed myself, like I failed my husband, who’s been working hard to support the both of us; I feel embarrassed, knowing I’ve told people what I’ve been trying to do.

I thought I’d be farther along by now. But I didn’t try hard enough.

So now I’m looking for a part time job, but I’m scared, because it’s been a year. It’s going to be hard to get back into it. I think beginning to earn money again will ease some of my anxiety, but I don’t know where to apply, or what to do. I feel so lost.

I could sense depression sinking back in, a black trickle pooling up inside of me. I visited my therapist last week for the first time in a year in an effort to dig my fingers into it, to grip it and attempt to get it back under control. I’m exercising every day now, logging my food to make sure I eat enough and eat healthy. It’s easy to slip into depression, like sinking backwards into a bathtub, water slowly rising over your ears, your eyes, your face, until sound is muffled and sight is blurred and everything is coccooned in a sort of numbness.

It’s easy to sink into that. It’s harder, sometimes, to resist it. To fight back.

I’m trying, and I’m not trying. I want to work on my draft, and I’m not working on my draft. It sits undisturbed on the table where it’s sat for a week now. I stare at it. I hate myself. I look at job listings. I go to the therapist. I stare out the window and do nothing.

Today I plan on going back to Panera, where I haven’t been in weeks. I’ll bring my draft and my laptop and my notebook and my pens, and even if it’s only for an hour, I hope to get some work done. Moving an inch is better than not moving at all.

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Cracking knuckles and preparing to tackle.

I think I figured it out.

I’ve been dealing with making any sort of progress with my second draft; I’ve been dragging and kicking and just not getting anywhere. And I’m sitting here at midnight with a glass of red wine and my draft in front of me, and I realize something: with my first draft, I mowed through it. Don’t stop for anything, I told myself. It’s okay if your first draft is terrible. It should be terrible. It’s your first draft.

But I’m not on my first draft anymore.

And every time I’ve sat down to write, I feel this tightness in the dip of my throat, and type a few words before I end up online or watering my plants or talking to my dog. And just a few minutes ago I realized that my second draft isn’t my first draft (obviously), and there’s this sort of trepidation, this nervous tip-toeing I’m getting around it, because I told myself the first draft could be awful, and that I just had to keep going and not to stop for anything, but now here I am and…it’s the second draft. It feels a little more serious.

I’ve been overthinking everything, belaboring over small details; I’ve barely made a chip in the face of a granite cliff. I think I need to take on a bit more of my first draft mentality here: I have the rough bones to work with here, so now it’s just a matter of starting to put them all together and make them look a bit more spiffy.

So. Time to tackle this second draft with a bit more shoulder and force and less mousiness.

*cracking knuckles and getting into tough guy stance* Ya hear that, second draft? I’m coming for you.

Received my first rejection today.

I mean, I’ve only sent out one query, and my manuscript isn’t even ready yet, so it’s okay. My query was a mess. And the agent was wonderful about it – very nice about the whole thing. I don’t think I could have picked a better agent to reach out to on my first try, she just seems very understanding and kind.

I’m not discouraged, but it was a bit of a wake-up call for me. A reminder that, hey, this is going to be harder than I thought – a lesson that’s hit me every step of the way so far.

It was a wake-up call, too, in that I really began to realize the amount of pressure I’ve put on myself. It’s been a year now. A year of me not working, not earning a paycheck. And every day I feel like things have to happen, that something HAS to happen, because I’ve put a year into this now.

I applied for a job at a dog kennel this morning, and have an interview with them this afternoon. It’s happening faster than I thought, but maybe working will help me gain momentum again. I’ve been dragging through this second draft, hardly making any progress, and I think part of it is because of the pressure I’ve been feeling. Every time I sit down at my laptop, I see where I’m at, and I know I have SO much work left to go. And it freezes me up a little. Maybe if I start working again, it will take some of the pressure off and allow me to feel more relaxed, more free, less restricted. And maybe some structure would help, too.

My biggest fear is that if I start working again, I’ll set my draft aside, and lose the past year.

But I need to do something, because lately I’ve started slipping. I haven’t put my all into it. I need to do something to get on track. I want to try my hardest, but for some reason I hold myself back.

Lots of things swimming half-formed in my head today, lots of things I’m quietly mulling over, not fully grasping yet, but that I know are there.

I just want to make progress. I just want to be able to feel proud of myself, to know I got it done. But how can I want it, and then not seem to be able to get it done? I don’t know. Brains are weird. I confuse myself when I start thinking about how I feel, sometimes.

But anyways, just wanted to check in with some of the things I’m thinking through today. Rejection isn’t bad – it’s a part of this writing process. And I had a wonderfully nice, supportive first rejection. But something is holding me back from continuing to make progress. Hoping a job could help, not hinder.

And commence panic.

So at the end of May last year I told my job I wasn’t returning after summer.

That means it’s been a year. It’s officially been a year.

AND I’M ONLY ON THE SECOND DRAFT.

As May came to a close this past week, the tension started to rise until it reached a humming, frenzied buzz ringing through the core of me, vibrating through every limb and shooting through my fingertips; June 1st came and I was raw and electric, a mess of anxiety and self-loathing. Why did I quit my job? Why did I think I could do this? Did I honestly think I could accomplish much in a year? Did I have a plan at all?

The thoughts culminated and tumbled over, until they poured into other aspects of my life as well, my anxiety leaking into other areas of my daily life until I was snapping at my husband, sleeping in, hiding under the covers away from the world, away from my mess of a manuscript, not even close to being ready to send out to agents.

I didn’t go into this with a set deadline, wasn’t expecting to be done by such-and-such date. But officially hitting the one year mark made me realize that I had expected to be further along than this. And I think the reason why it’s affecting me so deeply is because I know I could have done better, I could be farther along. So many times now I’ve dilly-dallied. So much of my time has been wasted due to procrastination and a lack of self-discipline. Granted, I didn’t officially start writing until the end of August/early September, but still.

So here I am, a year along with a rough first draft and the beginnings of a second. I officially haven’t worked in a year, and I imagine people will look down on me for that, and I’m applying to jobs now, looking for ways to make money, and trying to stay on top of writing as well.

But I can’t beat myself up for where I’m at and what I haven’t accomplished, because that won’t help me make progress. I need to focus on now. I need to keep moving forward. So I’m going back to my draft, and I’m going to keep working. And keep working. And as long as I do that, I can keep moving forward, however slowly that takes.

Tick Tock

Oh hi, Wednesday! When did you get here? Can you come back later, please? I feel like time’s been moving too quickly lately, and somehow it’s already the end of April. So if Father Time could just stop breathing down my neck for a minute so I could work on my manuscript without worrying about how long it’s taking me, I would really appreciate it.

Hear that, Father Time?!

Yeah, I’m losing it.

Anyways, it’s been about a week since I posted last. I’m still reading through my first draft (crossing things out and making notes as I go along), but I’m almost done now. But when I finish reading it, that means I’ll have to start getting into the real nitty and gritty of revising it. Why does every step of the writing process freak me out? I think it’s because all of this really matters to me, and that’s…scary. I don’t even like talking about it. Half tempted to delete the past few sentences, in fact, because it’s scary to acknowledge the things that matter.

Well. Time to get back to reading the first draft. Hoping to finish it by today.

 

PS – it’s even worse than I imagined it would be. My first draft, I mean. I have a mountain of work ahead of me – lots of enormous changes and minor tweaks and major overhauls to be done.

Be open to the feedback you’ll get.

You’re going to get criticism. You’re going to be told to change things. Be able to process these sort of things productively. 

A common thread I’ve seen throughout my research about writing and publishing is that it’s often hard for writers to hear feedback and constructive criticism about their work.

I haven’t gotten to the stage yet where I’ve had anyone else read my manuscript – from what I’ve researched, you bring in readers after your second draft, and it makes sense, because my first draft is a tangled mess of sentences and structure and ideas.

I’m nervous to have people read it, because I know they’ll have feedback. I hope I can take it positively, and move into revising with gumption and not much dragging of my heels. I’m worried constructive criticism will discourage me, because it’s hard to imagine that I’m going to devote an unknown amount of time to creating the second draft, and that after that, my work still won’t be over.

I know it takes a long time, but I’m starting to feel impatient, and nervous, and edgy. It’s been a while since I’ve worked now, you know? It’s been a long time now that my husband has been waking up every day, sitting at a desk, putting in hours, making money for the both of us. Maybe I should get a part time job as I approach the second draft, but I’m afraid that I’ll derail myself if I do so. And after so many months of stressing and not working, should I risk derailing myself but easing some financial stresses, or push it for a couple more months?

How many more months? How much longer can I keep trying like this?

Okay. *deep breath* I’m digging worry-holes again and I’m going to roll my ankle in one of them if I don’t stop thinking now.

All I really came here to say is my lesson for the day: I want to try and be ready for constructive criticism when it comes, and be able to take it in with a positive attitude and an open mind.

Also, I just really want to be done, too. But I have to keep taking it bird by bird. Step by step. Word by word.