I made a start on my next novel yesterday. Not because I’m finished with the last one. Just because I knew how good it would feel. And how encouraging it would be – and is.
I’ll finish revising the predecessor but I’m on to the next too because I’m into this writing thing for the long haul. I’m also now over the hump of dreading where the next one will come from. Or if there will be a next one at all.
There's a typical writer’s experience – a dark night of the writerly soul – where the next book is a source of dread. It starts happening for me a few chapters before the end of the story I’m currently working on.
This dread has actually been niggling at me for some time by that point but I haven’t yet truly acknowledged it. The general substance goes something like this. “Do I have another book in me? Is there another full long story I can get through all the way to the end?”
I already know the beginning of an answer to this because I have already taken notes and collected research – bits and pieces stashed in a file somewhere that attest to the bare bones at least of the dread next thing. So “Do I have it in me?” isn’t the real niggler here.
I do anticipate some separation anxiety. A deep relationship has grown and flourished between my writer self and the characters I’ve created and the world I’ve summoned into existence in the thing I’ve been working on for what feels like a very long time.
My writer’s heart doesn’t really want to leave all of that behind. But I’ve said goodbye to beloved story people and scenarios before and the creative spark hasn’t guttered inside me. So that’s not the true dread either.
I believe that the questions flummoxing us – or at least me – at this delicate juncture are as follows. “Will my next story – or article or book or whatever I’m planning – be good enough? Do I still have IT? And if I do – is my version of IT still adequate and relevant?”
For a novelist the fine tuning of these flummoxers may sound something like this. “Will I be able to fall in love again with another bunch of fictional folks and their predicament? In love deeply enough to spend several months and 300 or so pages with them?”
That is a deskful of doubt if I ever heard one. So what do we do? What do I do?
Some of you know me already. Feel free to shout out if you do. You’ve been in my classes or you’re a Facebook friend or a real world friend. If so you may be able to guess what’s coming. I’m about to make a favorite shout out of my own.
DO IT ANYWAY! This is my mantra forever. Hold your nose and leap right in. Do not listen to your doubts. Do not avoid the next piece of work by distracting yourself with – well uhh – distractions. We all have a cartload of those to trot out when we think we need them,
DO IT ANYWAY! The thing you dread. Do it because that is how you discover you have nothing to dread after all. Do it and there it will all be. The spark and the wonder and the quickening of your imagination – the high that makes writing the positive addiction it is.
I promise you that when you stop looking and leap the most beautiful vistas will appear to you. How can I promise this? Because I just did exactly that. And there isn’t a dread in sight. And I’m celebrating!