Wednesday of last week I got to work and noticed a pain in my throat. Every time I swallowed, it hurt, heralding the onslaught of a sickness that has been going around my office the last couple weeks. I was, to put it lightly, upset, because that very weekend I had a big conference to attend. A conference I’d been looking forward to for months.
I wet home. I took NyQuil and chugged hot water and honey. I slept, a LOT, and took a bunch of Vitamin D, all the while crossing my fingers that by Friday morning I’d be back to my normal sunshine and lollipops disposition. Problem was, me being sick was not the only thing dragging me down. I was neck-deep in revisions for Struck by Chocolate at this point, and every day felt like I was pulling myself through by sheer force of will alone. The revisions were tough, but everything else felt hard, too. I thought I was being moody, or maybe SAD had finally taken hold.
Friday morning I made my way to the conference (by way of Starbucks). Throat still hurting, exhaustion still clinging to my tired limbs. The first event of the day was a class with Cherry Adair, author of the Cutter Cay series, talking about creating 3D characters. Now, I defy you to feel poopy while listening to Cherry talk. She’s energetic and fun and full of so much solid information my head is still swimming.
Later that day I met up with Miriah, and got a chance to meet a lot of other lovely, brilliant women, as well. There were mini workshops, panels, and then a big dinner during which I made the fatal error of drinking a cup and a half of coffee.
That night, I couldn’t sleep. Not only did the caffeine keep my heart beating erratically, but a couple personal issues paired with the seemingly endless black slog of revisions meant I didn’t get to sleep until nearly 3 am. Which was exactly what I needed, considering I was signed up to pitch my novel to an agent at 8:30 in the morning.
I went home early that night, crashed hard, and did it all over again Sunday morning. All the while feeling like I was hanging on to my sanity by a thread. It wasn’t until Monday that I started to realize that what I was going through wasn’t okay. It wasn’t right. And I needed to do something to fix it before I did something stupid.
Now, if you know me, or have been reading this blog for a while, you’ve probably heard my ‘life story in a nutshell’. When I turned sixteen I dropped out of school and went crazy for five years. In those years, I barely wrote, and I am firmly convinced the two are linked, because every time I’ve stopped writing since then I can feel myself careening off the rails. Every. Damn. Time. And while I was still working on writing during these revisions, what I was actually doing was bashing my head against a wall, trying to put a band-aid to stem the hemorrhage that was my novel.
Riding on the wave of good feelings, great people and information overload from the weekend, I sat down on Tuesday for lunch, some reading and, apparently, epiphanies.
I wrote Struck by Chocolate four years ago. I didn’t read romance at the time. In the interim I’ve gone to ClarionWest, read a LOT of books on writing, wrote several more novels, gotten published, and started reading the genre I’d been trying to write back then. I’ve learned so, so much both about the requirements of a romance novel, and about writing in general. Why was I trying to fix a book that, in reality, was me experimenting? Clearing my throat.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the characters, the concept, the storyline. But there was so much missing from the page that trying to revise was making me crazy.
So I’m starting over. This is the second novel I’ve rewritten from whole cloth. I’m really hoping it doesn’t become a habit, cause it’s pretty annoying.
Every writer is different. Every person will feel the warning signs that they’re doing the wrong thing a different way. Maybe you can identify with some of what I went through. Maybe not. For my sake, at the very least, I present the following list of Cues to Pay Attention To:
- Feeling vaguely angry all the time.
- Problems sleeping.
- A deep reluctance to open the laptop.
- Avoidant activities such as overindulgence and lots of passive television viewing.
- The urge to snap at people I love and cherish.
- A consistent, low-level urge to curl up on the floor and sleep.
I know I would have come to this breaking point sooner or later, but I think the great vibes and techniques I picked up this weekend really pushed me to figure myself out faster. Thank. Freaking. God. I’m pretty annoying when I’m working against myself.
Does any of this sound familiar to you? Or have you noticed your own set of Cues?