I recently finished my next novel. Oh, I still have copyedits and things like that to do, and then the whole marketing rigmarole, but the writing is (mostly) done.
(Sidebar: I’m now in the place of the writing process where I think the book is terrible and it is the worst book ever written and that the friends of mine who are reading it must think I’m the worst writer in the world, and how could I possibly have shared this book with them when the book is sooooooo bad omg it’s terrible. I’m terrible. What was I thinking ever getting into this writing business. I need a drink. It’s noon. It’s a snow day and my kids are home I can’t have wine yet. SEND HELP.)
Anyways, the book is done. I write and edit full time, so it’s not like I don’t have 100 other things to be doing right now. My to-do list is the length of a grocery list for a family of 12. But I can’t seem to shake the feeling that there’s something ELSE I should be doing. And that’s because there isn’t this pressure to Finish. That. Book.
That lack of pressure should be a relief, right? But the thing is, it isn’t. That feeling of urgency, of drive—that’s what writers live for. It’s the writerly equivalent of what adrenaline junkies are chasing when they jump off of high-rises with their parachutes.
So, what to do?
There’s a phrase we novelists have: it’s called “a book affair.” You’re working on a novel, but then, an idea comes to you for ANOTHER novel. And so, in secret, you cheat on the novel you’re supposed to be working on, and you write some of this novel-on-the-side. You have a book affair. Book affairs usually don’t last long, obviously, because you would never finish a book if you kept cheating on them.
But I’ve come to think that the book affair isn’t such a bad thing. I’ve made room in my life for them. Because now, only a couple of weeks since I sent off that manuscript to people
who I’m sure hate me now or at least think I’m a garbage person because my writing is so terrible, I’m already three chapters into a new book, courtesy of an affair I started months ago.
I gave that idea space to grow in those months, took notes when they came into my head and then set them aside again, and now, when I found myself at loose ends, I didn’t have to start from scratch.
Thank you, book affair, my novel-on-the-side, for your patience. I happy to say I can give you my full attention.