My mom introduced me to storytelling at a young age. She’d concoct stories that would go on for months, my little brother and I listening intently, fixed in place.
In grad school, I may not have the most clinically sound reports on age related disease or health care systems, but mine were certainly the most entertaining. I still have research papers with notes from professors asking me what I was on while writing them. Luckily, never having tried drugs or even smoked a cigarette, my goofy (but mostly intelligent) disposition came naturally, from my mother.
Later on, after being home for eight years with three babies, I missed my old brain, the one that liked words with more than two syllables. I was hoping to be done with diapers so that I could reengage the outside world, that lovely place that dispersed paychecks and appreciated my dry but informative articles on navigating the eldercare arena and managing Alzheimer’s.
So, when I saw that blue plus sign in the tiny window (again), I barely spoke for two weeks. It had to be a joke. I mean, the fact that my husband and I still really liked each other after thirteen years was a blessing, but I was certain the Catholic church had pulled a fast one on me with that family planning schpeal. I was mad, again. How could I manage a family of six when I was already running on empty?
I stopped sulking, realizing Someone must think I have something worthwhile to offer a new person. The plus sign was a gift, and I was being unappreciative. So, I put my big girl pants on and sucked it up. One more child would indeed put off my plans for a few more years, but whatever, there was still a decent chance that I’ll have a life again after they’re all in school.
Then came the lesson. The gift from God was two-fold. Everything I’d hoped for, just in a different package. Not only did we add a natural comic to our family roster, I got a story that turned into a novel–The catalyst for my new life as an author.
Some women get insomnia while pregnant. I’m one of them. And that incited gifts number three and four, time and productivity. Creative energy and a nine-month high that just so happened to visit each night from 10pm-3am after everyone was asleep. The story came out of nowhere. It was effortless, automatic. Five hours would fly by as I hammered away at my MacBook. The best part? I could still be who I needed to be during the day. The wife, the mom, the cook, the laundress…I was so excited about writing each night that I’d quickly shuffle through my daily chores with bells on, anxious for my evening writing fix.
I didn’t know that story would be a book. Even as I reached the fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters, I only saw the writing as a mental exercise. By the time our baby boy was born I found myself closing in on the last chapter. That chapter took the longest…Tying up loose ends, making sense of it all, and having an ending that is uniform and natural to the style of the remainder of the book. Unfortunately, I couldn’t possibly wrap mine up in a tidy manner and decided to keep going. So here I am, two years later, mid-edit on my second novel, The Mole.
Like most writers, I have other projects. Most of us need additional streams of income through traditional means then devote off hours to writing, that one thing that allows us to be our free, unhindered selves.
But it’s an unnerving thing, putting your degree of weird on display, inviting critique from others. After my last edit of Little Red Rider, I actually waited a day or two to submit it back to my professional editors to finalize, cringing at the thought of potential criticism I might get from friends, family, and readers. And I assure you they will have lots to say. And sometimes it does hurt.
Someone will think you fashioned an irritating character after them…Or perhaps your husband might notice that a (post-prime womanizing) male character is uniquely similar to an old buddy and does not appreciate it, even if you made the character otherwise lovable.
You may have an unnamed friend insist you write a steamy skin-on-skin sequence and complain about the lack-there-of in your book. Worse yet, she’ll make suggestions that you don’t want to hear because she’s essentially pushing what she thinks is hot. Then you can’t get the images of her and her husband doing that very thing out of your head at night when you’re trying to get some sleep. It’s terrible. Talk about seeing your audience in their underware…
So you have an idea for a novel floating about your cranium? Write it now. Because you won’t have time later, either. Even worse, you may just lose your JuJu. The story and flow may very well vacate your brain and leave you with a good idea that never develops or sees print. You will then violently kick yourself, thus necessitating the surgical removal of your foot from your output. Not pretty.
Perhaps you are blessed with time but you are afraid of failing. Don’t be that person. There is little chance that your book will end up on the New York Times best seller list. That’s just reality. Mine, for sure won’t as it’s been out for nine months now…Ditto for Oprah’s Book Club. But, you need to get that book out of your head anyway, if for nothing but your own sanity.
It’s a painful process and you do get stuck, but eventually (victoriously!) finish the novel. Next is editing. Editing sucks donkeys and you may end up deleting entire chapters that took months to conceive. But, the feeling that comes when you open your mailbox and see the first hardcopy of your novel in there is better than anything. Yes, every single thing. Even that. A lot.
Marketing your book is even more sucky than editing it because you are essentially selling yourself along with your book. And if you aren’t your biggest fan, the marketing piece is genuinely painful. A book signing will likely go like this–An introvert sitting for two hours faking a monotonous smile, sweating, hoping, sweating, praying that someone will stop and talk to her. It’s terrible, because a line out the door at your first book signing is highly unusual, even if you’ve gathered local interest and other venues to carry your book. Either way, it doesn’t matter. It’s still not as fun as it sounds.
Moral of the story? You will always have additional things thrown on your plate. Things that come out of nowhere, that you can’t account for. A new little person in your life, additional job responsibilities or job loss, deaths, new relationships, elderly parents, etc. So, write your book now! Get it down before it goes away. It might turn into something and it might not. But having it printed, in your hands, will be a watershed moment in your life…Satisfaction, confirmation, validation, and all the other good "tion" words.
Stop making excuses and write your book. See it for what it is…A gift.
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