The Afters

I had been pushing so hard to finish my work in progress this summer.  I wanted to be ready for fall, my favorite season, with its crisp air and the kind of blue sky that isn’t trapped above a summer haze.

For some reason, my rhythm still operates on an academic schedule.  September nudges closer and I want to be new.  Like the school clothes, the empty notebooks, the just-sharpened pencils, their shavings in a curlicue.  I want to be rid of everything that came before and take off with all the afters.

Early this month, as I saw September rise up, I pushed late into the night, forced words that began to hate me for thrusting them on crowded pages.  I kept pretending it was possible to finish, all the while knowing it was not.

It was a good little run, that kind of denial, but now I know it’s not possible.  I’ll have to take this novel into fall.  Heck, who am I kidding?  Chances are you’re going to find me making snow angels with this ratty manuscript still hidden in my puffy coat.

Sometimes I think writing is a race.  I think I’m losing.  As I wander through the blogosphere, I can’t help but think all these writers are going to sleep early and waking up late and, somehow, in the time they were dreaming, they managed to write 80,000 words.  Truly.  It looks that miraculous from here.

They’re winning, I think. I’m going to come in last.  Dead last.

I know it’s not true.  I know their successes are not miracles.  I know it’s not a race.  I know I’m too caught up in their afters: their finished first drafts, their multiple offers of agent representation, their book deals, their cover reveals.  I know that when I have all of these things, I will just get caught up in the next round: their sales, their reviews, their signings, their speaking engagements.

I used to write because it was the best place to be heard without having to speak, because I had to know the story that was in me, because it was so much fun I didn’t know how to stop.  I never wrote to reach the end.

I’ve decided I want to write like that again. I want to walk into fall and remember what it was like before I knew what they had or what I wanted.  I’m going to write like there is no after at all.

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4 thoughts on “The Afters

  1. Words come at their own pace, and it often varies manuscript by manuscript. Some appear in their own time, and I wouldn't get yourself too down about people who write a 50k novel in a month. That's not the way you do it or me either!

    As for the other things, I know what you mean. I have a cover reveal coming up soon, but yes I feel a poke of anguish when I see other people have multiple deals for multiple future books (some they haven't written yet) and I wonder, how are these happening so fast when the process takes forever for me?

    Just remember. The race is in our own heads. Readers always want more books. They aren't going to run out of ribbons for people who cross the finish line.

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  2. Said so beautifully! I too often look at the afters – as if the whole manuscript, book deal, etc. etc. all occurred from nothing. Of course it does not. Summer has escaped me too but now I am hungry for fall. I've got to finish it!

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  3. Your book will still be cookin' while you are away – and it is good to leave it on the back burner like that from time to time. I hope you can ignore what is happening to/for others – it's all just so much yakkayakkayakka and has nothing to do with your own journey. Good luck. xx

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