It happens every time. I hadn’t expected it this round, but there it is, reliably waiting for me. As soon as I send a major project out to find its way in the world, I seem, every time, to step off into a vacuum.
Peggotty is with my agent, Rubin Pfeffer. (Peggotty is the verse novella that I was calling Patches until I remembered I had a better name tucked away.) There will be further work to do on it, of course. I certainly hope there will be further work as I always want the privilege of working with whatever insights an editor can bring to my manuscript. But it will take some time before any of that happens. In the meantime . . .
Ah . . . in the meantime is the problem.
In the meantime I’m floating out here, wondering what to do with myself, wondering why I got up this morning, wondering whether I’ll ever write anything again as long as I live!
A bit melodramatic? Of course. I admit it. More than a bit predictable, too.
I seem to go through this kind of awkward transition every time I complete a piece I’ve been working on for a period of months, though I haven’t always recognized the every-timeness of the phenomenon. I remember once saying that to someone who had been around me and my work for a long time, “I feel as though I’ll never write anything again,” and she replied, “That’s what you said last time, too.”
I was shocked. I had thought—I believed ardently—that I’d never in my entire career been in such a place.
But there I was, facing the fact that I’d felt it, said it, believed it many times. And yet, of course, I did write something again. In fact, since that particular revelation I’ve written many somethings.
This time, though, I thought I’d be immune. Didn’t I have a novel waiting, a novel I was eager to return to? I’d written nearly 200 pages of it before getting stopped, and in the months since I’d put it aside for other projects, it had remained with me almost constantly. I was ready to start again with a new structure, with newly conceived characters. And I was even excited about starting over.
So this morning, in preparation for moving back into the manuscript, I sat down to Blue-Eyed Wolf to reread the opening scene. It’s a scene that has remained essentially unchanged from the beginning. It’s a scene I was confident formed a strong opening for my story. But as I read, I found my heart sinking. Was this what I planned to immerse myself in for the next months? Really?
There was something wrong with it. Or if there wasn’t something wrong with the text, then surely there was something wrong with me!
Is this that same old place? I ask myself, the one where I can never do what I’ve just done again. Will I wake up tomorrow morning or a week from tomorrow morning and immerse myself once more in words and characters and story? Will I forget these doubts ever seeped into my soul . . . until some good friend who has heard me whine too many times reminds me?
We writers have nothing to work out of except our own minds, and minds are tricky stuff. Or as Anne Lamott said, “My mind is like a bad neighborhood. I try not to go there alone.”
My mind is capable of such marvels . . . and of such self-aggrandizement and distortion, such pettiness and cruelty, mostly toward myself. I’m reminded of the bumper sticker that comes out of Buddhist mindfulness practice, “Don’t believe everything you think.”
So . . . what do I do when I’m never going to write again as long as I live?
Well, I’m a writer, so I sit down and write about not-writing. What else?