Writer discovered after two years in six foot by six foot box with only a typewriter for company.
“Shut me back inside,” the writer grumbled when the cover was removed, “Nail it down tight. I’ve almost solved this thorny plot problem.” (excerpt from the Codswallopian Times, August 9, 2008)
Pssst. I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Writers are crazy.
I know, I know, it’s hard to believe but believe me I know, I play one on TV.
I just finished my book, as I think I announced on the blog but perhaps you missed it because it wasn’t in Bold CAPITAL letters. And of course this is only the 2nd draft before editorial revision of which I always hope there will be little and of which there is always an endless sea, a bottomless pit, a topless mountain’s worth. But I like doing revision. The hard part of writing is just getting the story out and down on paper and seeing what you’ve got, if anything. So I have done that. It’s out, it lives, it doesn’t exactly breathe yet, it isn’t a thing of beauty as such, but it gasps a good deal and makes messes on the floor and it’s mine.
I should be ecstatic and I was for about half an hour after I’d finished. Because here’s the deal:
*After you finish the first draft of a book (after three months of looking after kids and writing very late at night after the little uh- uhs have gone to sleep) and finally turn the computer off for the last time after backing it all up three different ways -(I send it via email to myself, print it out, load it onto a flash drive, and sometimes send a super- secret- do -not -open- this file word document copy to my mother)- a period of depression sort of sets in. It doesn’t make sense. This I know in a purely rational way but I feel it in any case. And I can only assume that it’s something to do with the writing process. Here’s what I think.
1) That after you finish a book there’s this sort of euphoric feeling where it seems like the whole world is holding it’s breath along with you. You finished it; the tiny germ of an idea has become complete; it worked well enough to fill 300 pages or whatever with action and plot; the characters did their thing; it feels right as if it was there all along and was just waiting for you to write it down.
AND then about 30 minutes later you realize that the world couldn’t care less about the book, about what it took to write it, about you. No one cares except for maybe immediate family and your editor – although mine happens to be on vacation right now and won’t know until Monday that I’ve sent her the manuscript.
*Here’s something else I’ve discovered about writers or at least about myself. (Because maybe I’m the only one who is nuts):
I love people. I need my friends and family. They after all provide a lot of the material for my stories. But I also need to completely isolate myself and not talk to another adult for weeks at a time. My husband and I mostly communicate through grunts. And if things are going well with the writing then I am blissfully happy and content with a life of writing, walking up hills, and playing with the kids but if it’s going badly then I am the loneliest person in the world. And if it’s going well and someone wants to see me socially then I feel resentful. There is a moment (or maybe it’s not just the one moment) while immersed in what will hopefully become a book, when I wish that someone could come in and finish it for me. Someone who can rescue me from one more late night struggling to describe something that should be pitifully easy. That might actually be a lucrative career- finishing books for depressed and insane writers who just can’t bear the misery and solitude anymore.
*I’ve talked about the whole humbleness/arrogance contradiction that exists in most writers before. Suffice it to say, I’m confident enough to think that someone wants to read AND buy something I’ve written, and insecure enough to never think it’s particularly good.
And it is between all these treacherous opposing states of mind that I exist. Certifiably insane.