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.

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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.

Oh, hi.

I haven’t been here lately. I’ve been elsewhere, bouncing between countries, doing holiday stuff, and trying to ignore that I’ve been totally neglecting my novel.

Yeah. I haven’t been so productive lately, and the anxiety and guilt is finally starting to dig its claws into me physically because of it. Tiny headaches, tension in my shoulders – it’s as if I’m haunted; like every moment I’m not writing there is a tiny ghost inside of me that pokes and prods and nags and is impossible to ignore. It’s interesting how I literally have a visceral reaction to not writing.

I quit my job to do this and time is running out. I gave myself to the end of February, to the AWP – although now that I’ve really looked at it, the AWP is beginning to look like it won’t be financially feasible for me. But still, the deadline is there. And what have I done in the last month? Shrug. Not very much, writing-wise.

I did hit 100 pages, which was huge – 100 pages feels so real, like I’ve really done something. If I printed it out, that would be an impressive stack of paper. But I’m nowhere near the end, and I have no idea how much longer it will take me, or how to accomplish making it all feel cohesive, or even what’s going to happen, really. And what if it’s awful? I’m 100 pages in, and this could be an awful, ridiculous story.

I try not to focus on those things. Once I start worrying, it worms its way into me for hours and days. I immobilize myself. Sometimes I wonder if I do it on purpose, just to avoid writing.

Writing is so much more work than I realized it would be.

But I hit 100 pages. And now it’s time for me to stop kicking myself for the past few weeks I’ve wasted, and to just start typing instead.

Keep moving. Keep writing. Keep typing. Stop thinking.

Something I realized while on the freeway today.

Blogger Katie May was kind enough to point out to me in my last post that I shouldn’t get down on myself for only writing 517 words in a day – that even if I just wrote 517 words in every day, it would still be 15,510 words in a month.

I was thinking about that today while on the road and suddenly it hit me: I quit my job back at the end of May, and have been floundering around since then, worrying about whether I made a mistake and whether or not I should be a writer.

If instead of worrying, I had simply sat down and wrote 500 words a day, even if they were terrible, even if it was the worst story ever – I would probably have somewhere around 42,000 words now (I’m terrible at math, so don’t quote me on that).

42,000 words.

So I need to stop hussing and fussing and just sit down and write. Yes, there is the possibility that it will end up being awful, but I won’t know until it’s done.

Okay.

Dear Me,

You’ve finished the short story. Now it’s on to bigger things. Like the novel you’ve been wanting to write forever.

*deep breath*

This can be exciting and fun, all right? It doesn’t have to be terrifying. Stop being freaked out for a minute and let’s think about all the good things that could happen.

Awesome things that could happen when I try to write this novel:

– I succeed in writing it.

– I learn more about writing.

– I actually write it.

Terrifying things that could happen when I try to write this novel:

– I’ll fail (again, like the million other times I’ve considered it or attempted)(but were you really serious those times?)(but are you really serious now?)(/end parenthesis rant)

– I’ll finish it, but it will be really terrible.

You know what, scratch that. Even if it is terrible, that doesn’t matter as much to me anymore as just accomplishing having finished a novel.

Why am I so determined to write one, even? Because the need began to pull at me as early as in the third grade when I discovered Nancy Drew, and began writing my own stories. I don’t know. It’s just been a need in me since I was a child, now. It’s not even that I have a specific story to tell – only that I feel like I need to get one down, that I want to have created a book, that I need to have put something complete down on paper.

So. How can I get excited about approaching this project versus the anxiety and panic that rises up in me  when I start to think about beginning it?

Things I can try:

– Smile. Smiling really does change the flow of thoughts in my head, can put the brakes on a bad tide of anxiety and reverse its direction, remind me to think positive.

– Think about the story I’m going to write, and wonder about what might happen in it. I’m not sure myself, so it could be exciting/interesting to see where it goes.

– Think about how I’ll feel once I’ve finished it (relieved? accomplished? proud? triple combo?).

 

Okay, time for some red wine and Buffy. I feel a little better now, though. Maybe a little mildly excited to start day 1 of Project Novel tomorrow (I just made that name up! But I kind of like it), but mostly still freaked out. Stop it! Get excited. Good things could come out of this. No more glass half empty for you tonight. Fill it up with more wine, instead.