Birthing a Novel

Focus on the journey, not the destination.  Joy is found not in finishing an activity, but in doing it.  -Greg Anderson

If I’m honest with myself, I started mentally writing this book 15 years ago.  I started writing it, in actuality, about six weeks ago, but right after I started, I experienced the sudden and unexpected loss of a beloved pet.  That loss crippled me.  I couldn’t handle the silence it took to write because all I could hear in the silence was the loss of him.  My grief took center stage and the two thousand or so words that I had just written were put aside for a month of losing myself in mindless television and audiobooks–anything to avoid the silence where I might actually have to face that my Murphy was gone.

I was disappointed in myself to some extent.  I was just getting my feet back on the write path (pun intended) and I couldn’t face my own thoughts.  My world became a series of distractions.

I knew I needed to get back to my words–to the story that I’ve needed to tell for so long, but I just couldn’t face it… yet.

After about a month of nonstop noise, I started to ease myself back into the silence again.  It wasn’t easy.  The temptation to listen to something, anything, to keep me out of my own head was a battle from minute to minute.  We live in a world of easy distraction and I embraced it for a solid month.

My feet had finally landed on a fated step in the long-planned-out path of my life–I couldn’t deny that in myself.  So I faced the silence with courage and fear and the book started the arduous process of becoming.

I’m two weeks into serious work on this project and have already been through excitement, depression, and a sense of determination that brought me through both to settle back on the work.

When I first sat down again to research, plan out plot, and develop characters, I knew where the book was leading me.  Somewhere during that process the book took a turn and within a two-day period, I had an idea for a book in front of me that was not the book I wanted to write.  It plunged me into a severe depression–the kind that doesn’t want to let you out of bed, much less to do the work to bring a world into being with words.

I distracted myself.  I took on the mind-numbing task of shaking the separation out of over 100 bottles of nail polish and adding polish thinner to those bottles that had thickened.  I had to do something, and that something couldn’t be working on a book that I didn’t want to write.

I started to have all of those doubts that writers have.  Was I kidding myself?  Why did I think I could do this?  I’m obviously not cut out for it.  If I can’t even get past the early research stages, then how could I possibly finish a book?  Maybe I should just give up?

I finished refreshing the nail polish and the next day I did nothing.  I sat and complained in my morning pages and let all of those feelings of doubt hit the page, but I didn’t write anything about the book.  I had been using my morning pages to work out plot points, solve problems with structure, and muse on character development and backstory.  All I did that morning was quickly write about how depressed I was over finding myself researched into a book that I didn’t want to write.  Nothing seemed to hold any joy.

The following day, a Monday, I woke up and went to my morning pages again and… everything worked itself out.  An idea that formed during those 15 years of mental writing came back to me and the world of my novel resolved.  It was once again the book that I wanted to write.  I went from despair to hope over the course of three days.

I finally came to realize that I needed that day of doing nothing.  It allowed my overworked mind to rest and pick up the story where it needed to be.  The next thing I knew I was immersed in creating the world I’d been imaging and a profound feeling of happiness and purpose stole over me.  I started frequently experiencing deja vu–something I haven’t experienced in quite awhile, when it used to be a common occurrence.

And the work began in earnest…

Two weeks into this twisting, turning ride around mountains and off cliffs and I’ve set myself a daily word count goal–at least 1,000 words a day, at least 5 days a week.  Those two off days are not specifically scheduled days, but after my misplaced step and my tumble off the writing cliff, I realized that there will be times when my mind might need some space to figure out what’s next and I may need to surrender to that process.  So, I’m making room for it.

I decided last night that I was going to share my ups and downs here and try to be as honest about this process as I could bring myself to be.  So I’ve added a daily word count and total word count for the rough draft to the sidebar.

What is your process like?  What picks you up and dusts you off after a severe and sudden fall off of that metaphorical cliff?  I’m listening…


3 thoughts on “Birthing a Novel

  1. Pingback: Breaking 50,000 Words | Surviving A Creative Life

    • It’s always good to know that you are not alone in your struggles. I know a lot of writers experience these same ups and downs. But you have to show up to do the work, right? You have to have that type of spirit that says, okay, I’m down and I’m having doubts, but this is still what I was put here to do.


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