You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. —Ray Bradbury
I saw the end coming. I knew the scenes that needed to be written, how long they needed to be, and how long it would take me to write that many words. I knew this first draft of my novel about Rapunzel would be done before August, and I was right. I finished yesterday, after three and a half years of writing, research, and interruptions.
Three and a half years. I can’t believe that I’ve worked on a writing project this long. The most amazing thing? It’s not really done. The draft is my road map, to help me discover the story I want to tell. After it rests for a few months, it will be time to revise it, keeping and adding only the things that tell the story I decide is The Story.
In the meantime, I’m terrified. Three and a half years is 42 months. I’ve been working on Rapunzel forever and I don’t know what’s next. I’ve got plenty of projects to choose from, including my more promising NaNoWriMo novels and stories I haven’t written yet.
Finishing this draft, which has been my writing goal for so long, has me full of conflicting ideas and emotions.
Part of me wants to party endlessly. I’ve earned a break. Look at how long I’ve been working on this! I should get a month to goof off, at least. (That it’s summer and I always feel like doing nothing for months doesn’t help any.) I should let myself play with other things, like sewing or drawing or painting. Or sleeping.
Part of me knows I’m not done just yet. Even though I intend to let the draft rest for at least three months before I look at it again, I have lots of little chores to do right now. I need to update my plot summary, make a list of research questions I still need to answer, and write down the ideas I have about where I want to go with this. Taking the time to do these things while I’m still thinking about them will save me time later, when I’m ready to pick this project up again.
Part of me fears that I will waste time if I don’t start in on a new project at once. At the same time, I’m terrified of picking the next project. What if I make a bad decision? Having so many choices means I have to put one of the projects ahead of the others. Should I pick up the book that I got stuck on now that I have ideas of how to fix it or will I just get stuck again? Which of the three books from my Twelve Kingdoms series should I finish first? I’m paralyzed by the thought I’ll make a big mistake about what’s next and put time and energy into something I can’t finish.
Mostly, I know that I am in trouble here because I have just crossed a finish line. I recently learned that finish line goals can keep us from developing habits. This is why it is imperative that I have a plan that keeps me writing. I haven’t been writing consistently for all this time; I’ve had to take breaks for various reasons, from vacations or illnesses to needing to focus on research for a while. But I need to pick up another project and get to work.
So I’m happy, terrified, paralyzed, annoyed, tired, and wrestling with doubt. I know my fear of making a mistake about what to work on next is going to be overpowered by my fear that I will stop writing altogether, even though that fear isn’t realistic.
I love writing. I don’t need to be afraid that I will quit. I know from experience I can’t. I have to stay drunk on writing, or I will go crazy.