It’s been another solid week of editing…however, this week proved a bit more challenging for a handful of reasons. The first noticeable obstacle was the three-trip adventure to the mechanic for my mysteriously overheating car—sadly, this resulted in a loss of a lot of editing time, and also no verdict on the car (hmph). It also led to a bit of meandering around on foot and thinking, which then rushed me right into the monster obstacle of the week: a giant case of randomly and inconveniently induced self-doubt.
Generally I’m a pretty confident and ambitious person. I mean, it was only 8,000,000* changes, and my years performing circus led me to believe that I’m part Superwoman, so really, how hard could this be?
I was editing, then I was up, then I was editing, then I was off in la-la land, then I was editing, and…well, you get the picture. Sure, I suppose I could attribute some of it to my self-diagnosed adult A.D.D., but as I stewed and fretted and wondered “Really, really, can I ever truly finish this book?”, I started thinking maybe it wasn’t the five-year-old trapped in my head after all.
I read some good blogs on getting motivated, and a great post on Letting it Go that I bookmarked and kept referencing (you should too). I had lunch with my talented author and graphic novelist friend MariNaomi, who handed me Stephen King’s On Writing (she’s also the third person to recommend this book to me). I made a deal with myself that I would definitely peruse this memoir right after I entered the 8,000,000* changes in my book but before I gave it a last touch-up read, since I might actually learn something helpful from Mr. King. And then when all that still didn’t seem to make me any calmer, I busted out my Kaiser medical handbook and learned how to belly breathe.
Sadly, all good monster stories tend to contain the really scary moment when the beast goes haywire. And that moment happened. Hard.
I happened to be on the phone with my cousin. I don’t usually like to refer to her as my cousin; she is more of a best friend than a relative, and she is also one of my treasured beta-readers/editors. She’s sassy and smart, and despite our familial connection, she can critically (but kindly) tear apart most any text I throw in front of her. We keep telling her husband that the two of us are going to quit our jobs so he can support us while I write in their basement and she edits for me full-time, but alas, he seems a little slow on follow-through…
All of this aside, the darling dear had something I really needed at that moment: patience and a good ear. I told her my frustrations—because “life” happened, I shelved this book so many times and for such long intervals (read: years) that my first novel had now been with me for the better part of two decades [belly breathe], and I have so many great ideas bouncing around and waiting for me to hurry up and finish that it was distracting and frustrating me [belly breathe], though of course I love the book I’ve been carrying around for more than half my life, but would I ever stop finding things to change on it [belly breathe!], because it simply feels so drastically different from the style I’ve been writing on the side for the last ten years, and how would that ever work? [BELLY BREATHE!]…Wah wah wah, cue violins, play a sad song, and then I dropped to the floor to belly breathe again.
After my cousin ascertained that I was indeed alive and breathing like a normal person, she said, in the wisest and calmest of voices, “Eva, you’re doing fine. It’s your first novel. Of course it’s going to be the hardest. So finish this edit, get it out there to some agents, and then feel good about it no matter what. You owe it to yourself to finish and move on.”
Before I knew it, I was on my feet with that last little sentence on a post-it hanging on my mirror (no I’m not kidding). I was ready to go full-tilt and finish this little baby.
And honestly, I realized the end is not so far away. In fact, here’s a pretty little visual for how many of the 8,000,000* changes I’ve entered:
I cooed to my cousin for about ten straight minutes with lots of thanks and a threat to send her cookies in the mail, and then I pulled out more pages to enter. Before I started, I checked my email and got the real kick in the pants to cheer up and get to work:
The wonderful anthology that Susi Holliday had worked and slaved over from April’s Once Upon a Time Flash Fiction Contest was in print and ready to order!!! I mean, could I get any more inspiration than that?!
So, in summary, I think I need to spout a few great lessons I learned here.
1. Surround yourself with good people.
2. Listen to the wise words of your cousin/friend.
3. Belly breathe. Often.
4. Don’t let the Self-Doubt Beast win when it comes to writing. So the book takes forever, and maybe it doesn’t get published, but you’ll never know if you don’t try. And if it doesn’t work, okay, move along. In fact,
5. “You owe it to yourself to finish it and move on.”
6. And finally, always celebrate good things—like, for example, my first ever published piece. Yippee!
If you would like your very own copy of this fantastic anthology, you can hop on over to Amazon to order it here: Once Upon a Time: A Collection of Unexpected Fairytales. Edited by S.J.I. Holliday and Anna Meade, this anthology contains 89 tales by brilliant authors on the theme of “Unexpected Fairytales,” and it’s only $3.70 plus shipping. The proceeds beyond production costs even go to charity!
So, I’m off to edit now, with a big smile on my face and no belly breathing necessary. And thanks to all of YOU for going on this journey with me. 🙂
*Special Note: A week later, I am still fessing up to my tendency to exaggerate, often with the number 8. But shhh, don’t tell, or I’ll have to pick another number. 😉
July 2nd, 2012 at 7:41 am
Each piece finished, improves the honing of your craft. So all the frustration and self doubt can be worthwhile, because eventually one or two pieces will get published. Just never give up. 🙂
I’ve learned that publishing a book is the easy part, marketing it and getting reviews, that’s the hard part. 😛
July 2nd, 2012 at 11:56 pm
I keep hearing this! But I’m excited for that journey…and I’ll get there! I’ll just keep trudging along… 🙂 Thanks for the support!
July 2nd, 2012 at 7:11 pm
I hear you, girl. I went through what you did about two weeks before you…now I’m back on track and I know my book is going to be the best I can possibly write at this moment and I’m going to celebrate no matter what. Honestly — we f***in’ wrote BOOKS! And you’re right–surrounding ourselves with good people is so helpful. Here’s what a friend wrote to me just before I left for the conference last month, when I worried what agents might think of my m/s: “Go, be proud and live it up!”
July 2nd, 2012 at 11:58 pm
You’re right, Jessica, we did! We wrote some *%^&^$ books! 🙂 Your friend and my cousin are clearly brilliant, so we should keep them around! Thanks for your support, and I owe you an email. 😉
July 4th, 2012 at 9:26 am
I don’t know if anyone has ever mentioned this to you before, but you are an inspirational writer and human being! As I read along in your blog, your enthusiasm and creative energy seem to burst forth, even when you are struggling with the demands of the writer’s life, which can be formidable. I love how you allow your readers to share in your ups and downs, as well as your struggles and your progress. Seeing the whole range of costs and benefits to the writing life is both a reality check and illuminating as to why writers do this work.
You must be an amazing teacher too, because the joyful spirit that is evidenced in your musings here is absolutely contagious!
Whatever happens, I have no doubt but that you will succeed in your life and in your writing, no matter what form it takes or how long you must persist.
July 4th, 2012 at 5:29 pm
Oh my goodness, John, you write the kindest words. I am so flattered and honored that you feel that way, thank you. I always worry I’m perhaps blabbing too much, but I’m thankful you enjoy it (it’s definitely a reality check for me, as I write it, too!). So, so kind. Thank you for visiting and sharing your thoughts, I am grateful to have you as a reader! Have a great day. 🙂