March 4, 2013

Between Books

It feels great to finish writing a book.

Then it doesn't.

It's a strange letting go of a family that's taken residence in one's mind for months and welcoming a new one in.

Being in the midst of writing a novel is like being gainfully employed -- knowing what you're going to do each day.  Having purpose.

Finishing the novel is like being unemployed.  Laid off.  Thank you very much for your services.  There's the door.

I remember hearing Jodi Picoult say as soon as she finishes a book, she begins a new one.  That same day. 

I wish I could do that.  I can't.

After I've given all my energy to a book, I'm emotionally spent.  Empty.

The time between books is for refilling, for noticing stories and great character names and connections between things I care about.  It's time to let ideas light up my mind.  To take furious notes.  To read piles of books, hoping to be sparked by inspiration.

The time between books is for reconnecting with friends, taking long walks, spending time focusing on my family's needs, doing mundane jobs I've long neglected at home. 

But the time between books is sometimes uncomfortable. 

I want to be productive.  I want to write every day, but I'm not yet ready.  I have to fill the well, gather momentum and the willingness to lose myself in another family's story -- a family that will feel so real, I'll worry for them, lose sleep over them and root for them even though I know the odds are against them.

I'm more like Linda Sue Park, who finds herself trolling the want ads for teaching jobs when she's between books.

Writing days are hard sometimes.  Frustrating other times.  And sometimes they are smooth sailing with fat page counts.  Sometimes filled with exciting discoveries and heartbreaking happenings.  Sometimes they are slogging through the muck of a sluggish mind.  Other days, the fingers can't fly fast enough to keep up with the story. 

Writing days -- good, bad or ugly -- are where I belong, where I'm always headed.

The days spent writing are the ones I feel most at home with myself and with the world.

Postscript:  I wrote this post last night.  This afternoon, my agent called with brilliant revision suggestions for Death by Toilet Paper.  So, it looks like I'm happily employed again.  For now.  


middle grade ninja said...

I'm with you, dude. Just turned in my final revision and now my life feels empty until I start the next one. Thanks for sharing.

Wild About Words said...

Middle grade ninja -- Great to hear from you. Love your blog! Congrats on turning in the final revision. I hope you find some joy while refilling your well.

Anonymous said...

Donna, that's interesting. Thanks for sharing your feelings. I had an entirely different sense of your process. I didn't expect you were able to focus so much on one story line. I envisioned a constant jotting down of future book ideas, character development and maybe even dialogues.

Katie L. Carroll said...

Oh, I know exactly how you feel. I have all sorts of internal conflict when I'm in a place where I can't write and need to refill the well.

Enjoy the revisions! :)

Wild About Words said...

Paul, thanks for your comment. Shiny new ideas often come to me when I'm working on a book. I jot them down, then stay with the book in hand.
Katie, I know you know how this feels!