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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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.

Here we go.

This is it, guys.

 

Do you see that stack of papers, seemingly innocuous, wrapped in a cord and sitting on my mess of a desk/dining room table?

That’s my first draft, and I’m untying the cord today and going to start reading. After a month of letting it sit, I’m diving in. And I am Freaking. Out.

My nerves are a trembling thing beneath my sternum, a tautly pulled thread just plucked and humming in the base of my throat. What if it’s awful, what if it makes no sense? What if it’s irreparable – or what if it is fixable, but it’s going to take months?

My draft stares back at me, waiting. You’re just a stack of papers, I won’t be scared of you.

Let’s get started.

Cue 80’s victory music.

I finished my first draft today.

Holy crap.

I did it, guys. I actually did it.

I mean, months later than I originally planned on, and the thing is an awful, disorganized, chaotic mess, but I did it.

I’m giving myself a day to breathe and fist pump the air, and then I’ll decide how to move forward. But for now?

Holy cow. First draft down!

The latest thing I’m doing to derail myself

So, the latest thing I’ve started doing to seemingly sabotage myself with my writing is this: any time I hit any part of my story that isn’t clear to me yet, I stop. everything. completely.

It started happening a couple weeks ago, when I couldn’t decide if I had my characters at the right age and finally decided the story needed to be reworked in order to be Young Adult. And then, I froze. I spent days not writing anything, just thinking over the changes I had to make.

Eventually I started writing again, but ever since then, every tiny bump I hit paralyzes me. I haven’t written anything at all yet today, because I can’t figure out the side story with one of my main characters. I vaguely know that he left his home and there is tension with his legal guardian, but I don’t know why he left, what that tension is, or even what actually happened to his parents (why did he end up getting raised by someone else?).

And he’s not even the protagonist, he’s just the possible love interest for the protagonist. And still, I’m totally frozen today, just thinking, “I can’t continue until I know more about his background.”

I was plowing forward for so long, ignoring these questions, reminding myself it was just the first draft and I could go back and fix things later. But it’s like my snow plow hit a rock and now it’s crookedly plowing and has lost a bit of its confidence and any time it sees any bump up ahead it’s like, “Oh, I’m not sure I can make it. I’m scared. I need to slow down and stop completely and stare at that bump up ahead for a while.”

I need to get back to mowing forward, because lately I’m not making any progress. I mean, I guess outlining could count as progress, but is that even what I’m doing? I’m just sitting here, thinking about the direction the story could go. But I’m worried that if I know too much about what’s going to happen, I’ll lose interest in writing it. I feel like maybe I should be left in the dark a little, so I still have some curiosity. And I think my characters need a little freedom to breathe and move, too.

But then I’m afraid if I don’t sort these things out and get plot questions answered now, I’ll end up with an enormous mess of a first draft, or my story will devolve into something ridiculous.

I don’t know how to approach this situation. Do I stop writing for a day, or a couple days, or however long it takes me to sort out my plot/character questions when they come to me? Do I spend time outlining and drafting and mapping, to avoid disorganization, but risk losing curiosity? Or do I force myself forward when I have questions, ignoring them and allowing my characters actions and the flow of the story to eventually reveal the answers? I honestly don’t know at this point. And so I end up standing here, glancing around and doing nothing.

Terrible.

The first draft of anything is shit.

– Ernest Hemingway

Okay, so I need to stop writing late at night for right now. There’s too much room for melodrama. It just isn’t productive.

Also, I need to remind myself to just keep writing at this point, keep writing and leave a mess in my wake. The first draft can be horrible, it can make no sense, it can jump between characters and places and I can even change their ages halfway through if I need to. I mean, if even Hemingway is saying a first draft can be bad, then I need to get over myself and just keep writing.

It actually feels kind of liberating, thinking about that. This draft can be terrible! Who cares? I can let my characters say and do whatever they want.

Now I just need to keep trying to remember that. Diving back into the novel now while it’s still fresh in my head.

Getting stuck as I go along.

Keep hitting little rough patches in my story where I’ll pause because I don’t know how to continue. So far, I’ve just forced myself to power through it, even if it leads to bad dialogue or character doing silly things. I  feel like I can’t slow down right now or I’ll eventually slow down too much and come to a complete stop.

I’m nervous that pushing through it like this might lead to my first draft spiraling out of control or heading in some unwanted direction, but I feel like I just have to keep going for now. I can’t pause and brainstorm  when I hit these places where I feel stuck, because I know myself well enough to know one of my ‘brainstorms’ can last months or even years, because it really just means putting a project on the backburner to simmer in the back of my head until I eventually forget it or give up on it.