Thursday, October 29, 2015

Downtime

Taking a journey on the SS This Novel Owns My Soul. (Photo by Derek Finch.)

This week, I finished writing a book that has been with me for a solid 16 months. My goal was to finish Finding Daylight by the end of October, and I beat my goal by several days. Feeling pretty pleased with myself, I compiled it all into a pretty Word document for my editor, wrote a happy note to her that the book was done (OMG!), and pressed send.

Then I sat there and didn’t know what to do with myself.

Does anyone else get that feeling? It’s like a quiet, persistent, unsettling lack. It’s only been two days, and I’m pretty sure there are non-writing things to do. Sure, I could finish the scarf I promised my husband back in January, or attempt to prepare myself for this two-week journey into the Middle East that I’m taking in approximately three days, but it doesn’t exactly feel right. The story isn’t there sitting next to me, pestering me to finish it. I’ve lived so long with it perched on my shoulder that I’m confused without the weight.

Of course, I could just start a new novel, but that’s like launching a cruise liner. You have to get all the characters on board, teach them how to save themselves in an emergency, prepare the ship, plot a course, turn on the engines, push off from the dock, and who knows what else goes into that. What I’m saying here is that starting a new novel is an ordeal. You either commit fully to the journey or you stay docked.

Oh yeah, did I mention that Finding Daylight isn’t totally finished yet? Just because it got shipped off to the editor doesn’t mean I don’t have work ahead. It will come back with red marks and questions, weaknesses pointed out that need to be strengthened. I can’t wait for that moment. I’ll feel at home again, clattering away at the keyboard with my story sitting next to me. But in the meantime?

In the meantime, I know that I have to do all of it. I’m going to go to the Middle East, and while I’m there I’ll finish that godforsaken scarf, will re-read Stay the Distance, and then I’ll write the first chapter of its sequel just to say hi to July again, see what’s up with her. When I get back, I’ll have Finding Daylight sitting in my inbox, ready for a good round of editing.

Then everything will be right with the world.

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Mara Dabrishus is an author and librarian at a small college in Northeast Ohio. Horse racing is her first great love, but for the past several years she's ridden dressage, learning how to spiral in, half halt, and perform the perfect figure eight. Her first novel, Stay the Distance, was released in March 2015. For more information, please visit www.maradabrishus.com

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