In last week’s post, “Mixed Blessings of the Internet,” I worried about the time I spend on social media versus the novel-in-progress. Despite the commiserating in the comments section of my blog and on several related posts around the blogosphere last week (see Patrick Ross’s excellent roundup here), you might be surprised by my conclusions.
I’ve come to this: Though tweeting and blogging correlate to the problem of less time for our fiction, they are not the reason we’re so willing to avoid our works-in-progress. I believe the cause of our new-found apathy is our premature worry about our finished products. Aspiring writers are too aware of the publishing side of things. We’re writing for an audience that exists in our fantasies. We want to skip the process and dive straight into our publication dreams. We’re getting antsy and desperate. Then we hate what we put on the page so we drift off into Cyberland instead. We read more about the industry. We feel more desperate to get our work out there.
Wouldn’t it be nice to return to the reasons we enjoyed writing in the first place? Why we ever bothered? Otherwise, what’s the point? If we don’t derive some joy from the process, then why are we writing at all?
I suppose I should only speak for myself. I’ll admit it: when I first took myself seriously as a writer (soon after I turned thirty) I thought I’d have a novel published by the time I was thirty-five. My 35th birthday is this December. I was naive times a thousand to say the least. Oh, I was quite the plucky would-be-novelist at thirty. In 2.5 years I wrote two novels. Then I learned what it takes to find a literary agent and heard tales of writers landing agents after completing their fifth or even tenth books. Of course that didn’t stop me from hoping that MY road to publication would be one of the swift ones. I had close calls with novel #2, but ultimately that book didn’t make it all the way.
While on one hand I’m glad to have some sense of the hurdles in publishing, on the other I miss my ignorant writing days. I wrote two books in 2.5 years for goodness sake. What have I done since? It’s taken me two years to write 1/4 of four different novels. Before my vast knowledge of the industry, I had to pull myself away from the novels. Since then I’ve had to make charts and essentially trick myself into writing fiction. I’m not saying I don’t expect the work of crafting fiction to be work, but I’ve made it something worse. I’ve made it dreadful.
Still, I don’t blame Twitter for getting in the way of my writing time, and I don’t blame the blog. Before spending extra time on those two vices, I used to watch too-much television or waste my time in other ways. At least with Twitter and especially the blog, I lack the constant self-consciousness I feel when I work on the book. Same goes for the short stories I write. Although I submit them to editors for potential publication (so also potential ridicule and rejection), I find the process infinitely easier than writing a novel. It’s for that exact reason I’ve essentially disregarded my stories and the consistent audience on this blog. Isn’t that messed up? I guess somewhere along the way I decided that if the stories and non-fiction pieces are easier for me, then they’re not worthy of as much attention and pride.
Regular readers of this blog know I’m expecting baby #4 in early November. During this pregnancy I’ve been especially bitchy while I work on the newest novel. Whenever I sit down to work I’m badgering myself with messages like: You better get this book out now because you’ll have even less time in 2012. Stop wasting time. Write, write , write! Certainly there’s a place for getting as much out of my writing sessions as possible, but there’s no reason I have to be such a tyrant.
After all, “What’s the rush?” No really, stop and ask yourself the same question. WHAT IS THE RUSH?
Intellectually, I know that if I want to maintain the fullness of my life as a wife, mother, friend, active member of the community, and more, then my path to a published novel will include unpredictable and long pit stops along the way. I’m hoping that by taking the pressure of time (“must publish by age ____ “) out of the equation, that I’ll enjoy it again.
Just so there’s no confusion, I’m not advocating we spend all our writing time on Twitter in the name of putting less pressure on ourselves to produce. If we don’t block out time to write, we simply won’t get anywhere close to our goals. Nor should we wait until we’re in love with the writing process again to attempt working on our novels. I’m not so inexperienced to think that every moment of writing will be resplendent with creative magic and bliss. It’ll always be work. But why can’t it be work we enjoy again, especially since we CHOOSE to do it?
So what’s my plan? I’m going to keep working on the novel. How is that different from what I was doing before? I’m going to do it without the sense of desperation and panic I’ve had for the past two years. I’ve said this in previous posts, and it’s still true: I’m in this for the long haul. The very long haul. Is it too much to hope for some fun along the way?