So, I’ve written something. Something big. Not big as in destined for Oprah’s book club big, just big in the sense that it’s the longest, biggest project I’ve ever undertaken, let alone finished. A novel – 250 pages of my heart and soul poured onto paper. For weeks and weeks I hardly slept, instead spending long hours up late with the laptop, immersing myself in a little imaginary town, in an imaginary county, with imaginary people. When I wasn’t actually writing, I was hearing conversations in my head, imagining how my characters would feel, how they would react to the events of their lives. For days and days the line between my own reality and that of my own creation blurred… I was immersed, consumed, and (just ask my husband) completely preoccupied. I’m still not sure where it all came from, and how I managed to survive on so little sleep, but there was really little option. The story wouldn’t leave me alone until it was written. So I wrote.
And then I finished. It was by no means perfect. I wasn’t sure I was even completely satisfied with it myself. But the story was told, from beginning to end. And that felt good.
And then, it felt cruel and horrible and awful. Because logically, now that it was finished, someone was going to have to read it. That’s why I wrote a story, wasn’t it? So someone could read it? But what if it was horrible? I’d never really fancied myself a writer of novels… a teller of stories about anything other than my kids, here in the safety of my own bloggy happiness. I had no idea how such an offering would be received by those around me. And yet, I knew it was necessary. So I gave it to my husband. He read it, while I tried desperately not to stand over his shoulder and study his face for any sign of confusion or boredom, or horror. Miracle of all miracles, he actually liked it. With his vote of support and tremendous encouragement, I sent out my manuscript to a handful of friends and family and asked for feedback. And then I waited.
It was horrible waiting a reasonable amount of time. I mean, it’s not as if you can send out 250 pages and expect a response 24 hours later. So I waited, and waited, trying hard to shake the feeling that I’d asked the cutest boy in class to the senior prom and hadn’t yet received an answer.
Slowly but surely, the feedback started trickling in. My sister was given the arduous task of being my very first hard core copy editor. She’s still, heaven bless her efforts, working to take the entire thing to grammar school, pointing out my excessive use of ellipses, my overuse of commas and identifying the sentences that must have been written with my head under a blanket. I’m grateful for this necessary editing, and know that no mistake will make it pass the careful and ever brilliant eye of my marvelous sister. From my other readers, I was mostly interested in their response to the actual story. Did it make sense? Did anything stand out as blatantly out of place? Confusing? Ridiculous? And most importantly, did they like it? I near begged for criticism, though I prayed it would all at least be constructive. How could I ever expect my writing to get better if I wasn’t willing to submit myself to the reactions of others, both good and bad?
But oh. It’s so hard!!! Hard to put myself out there, feeling so completely exposed and vulnerable. Those words, that story, it’s me. Not about me, but a reflection of my creative energy. To have others read it, and then vote yay or nay is so stinkin hard. Put me in the middle of a football field naked. Really. I think that might be easier.
In my own little world, on my own couch where no one reads my words but me, it’s easy. I’m happy, my characters are happy and everyone loves everybody. And yet, it isn’t quite enough. The process of writing, of creating is certainly fulfilling on it’s own, but to create something that can reach other people, that can inspire, uplift, and entertain… I’m guessing that’s even better.
So now I’m gearing myself up for an extensive rewrite… a removal of unnecessary commas, a resolution of timeline discrepancies, and loose end story lines. And then, I guess the next step would be publishing, or at least, an attempt at publishing. Of that, I am totally out of my skin terrified. Terrified of having someone big and important tell me that my baby, my very heart expressed in words isn’t good enough. What then? I’d like to think I’m strong enough to pick myself up and try again, write something else that will be good enough. I’m not sure I’m ready for that yet though. So not sure that for a moment, I think I actually AM content sitting on my couch all alone, simply dreaming of what it would be like to see my name across the bottom of a book cover. Life is so much easier in fantasy, isn’t it?
But then I wake up and realize that sink or swim, ain’t nothin gonna happen if I don’t get in the water. So I’m gettin in.
I’ll let you know how it goes.