I’ll just be in my cave for awhile
I’m about to do a very scary thing
It might not seem that way to you. But for me, it makes my innards feel discombobulated, as though they’ve been slightly rearranged. Here’s the deal: I have a big trip coming up, one across the pond to France to celebrate my beloved better half’s big birthday later this fall.
That’s not what’s making my stomach twirly.
Once we get back, I’m diving into a big hairy writing project: revising the rough draft of a novel, which in this case may well be a heavier lift than writing the thing in the first place. Especially since this one is a sequel to the first in a series (a duology or a trilogy; I’m not entirely sure at this point). There was a time, in my innocence, when I thought writing Book II would be comparatively easy once I’d gotten Book I into shape. Turns out, not so much.
So, that’s a daunting task, but it’s not what’s sending my stomach into somersaults at the moment.
What makes me nervous is what I’m about to do.
I’m clearing my desk of everything else
If I were you, my reaction to this news would be something along the lines of, “Well, thanks for the heads up, Jan, but I just might be able to go on living.” I am under no illusions that my temporary disappearance from any of these platforms is going to amount to even a mild speed bump in anyone’s day or week.
For me, though, it’s tough to let go
Blogging, posting, blog-casting: they’ve given structure to my week and demanded consistency from me. They give me a sense of outward-facing achievement, which is an elusive goal in the world of writing. In a week or, let’s be honest, a month where I’ve made little to no progress on a book or other major project, it’s been my blog, my short essays, and my podcast that have assured me that I’m still in the game and haven’t collapsed in a heap somewhere off to the side of the field.
But they also pull me in different directions, and now is a time when I need to follow one path to its end. If I ever want to get this next big story told, I need to give it the focus its due — and strip myself of excuses or reasons to dilute my energy. I need to withdraw into my writing cave and let the rest of the world go by for a bit.
I recognize this sensation. It’s exactly the way I felt before I wrote the first draft of my first novel, The Moon Ran After Her, a fictionalized account of the real-life experiences of women in my late husband’s extended family who survived the Armenian Genocide. It was a project I’d wanted to take on for years — decades, in fact — since I’d recorded and transcribed the memories of my husband’s paternal grandmother.
I had precious original source material, and I did a lot of research — but not only did the project feel huge and audacious (who did I think I was?), but there was one chest-clutching fear that tugged at me. And I recognize it as the same one that is swirling around and within me now like malevolent Halloween spirits.
The fear is that I won’t finish.
Here’s what I know about that fear
The only way to face it is head-on, and bit by bit (or, as Anne Lamott would counsel, bird by bird). Knowing myself to the extent I do, that entails cutting off all means of retreat. Until I’ve wrestled that revision into a workable second draft, I’ll have to forego the happy illusion that I’m still on track because I did three other things instead.
Of course, there are plenty of other ways I can and will find to procrastinate. It’s amazing the amount of baking, closet organizing, and other minutiae I can accomplish while avoiding my writing office. But the difference with those distractions is twofold: I can’t pretend they constitute writing, and they are sufficiently mindless that I’m actually gestating and germinating and otherwise gyrating about my story while I’m doing them.
Another way in which I’m onto myself: because I will set daily and weekly targets that I have to meet, at some point I will realize that either I glue my seat to my chair and face the keyboard or I’ll have an unticked To Do list staring at me at the end of the day.
As my beloved husband will tell you, that makes me crazy. And cranky. Crazanky?
Eventually, I know from experience, I will get far enough into the project that I wouldn’t dream of stopping before the finish line even if I were paid to (well, somebody would have to pay me a lot). At that point, I won’t need fear to keep me going.
Then I can blog and podcast and post and essay forth again, with renewed vigor. Until then — I’m thinking roughly mid-December if you’re wondering — I’m going into the Story Cave. I hope wonders await me there, and only the right sort of monsters.
For now, au revoir — and wish me luck.