Tuesday, July 14, 2020

The Post-Book-Revision Blues

For the past few weeks I've been crazed with revising my work-in-progress verse novel from extensive comments given to me on the earlier draft from my writing group, the Writing Roosters.

I wrote the book during the COVID quarantine in what I called my "Hour of Bliss" every day.
It was such a huge gift that I gave to myself to be in the presence of this story, watching it unfold poem by poem.

The revisions were blissful, too, but in a different way. Now I wasn't lying on my couch (and how I love lying on a couch); instead, I was hunched over my computer. And I wasn't working on this for an hour a day, but for two hours, or even three (which is a HUGE amount of time spent writing for me). I was a writer obsessed.

There is something so addictive for me about revision. I'm able to pace myself in a more leisurely way for the initial creation of a story. But once I have a good, clear plan for revision, with a good, clear sense of EXACTLY what has to be done, all I want is to DO IT, DO IT, DO IT! I stop each day only because revision is such intense work that my poor brain is exhausted.

I also wanted to finish the revisions during this six-week summer term of the graduate programs in children's literature at Hollins University where I'm currently teaching (online this year, alas). Even online, Hollins has an atmosphere of such heightened creativity that it makes me wild to engage in my own creative work.

So for the past month, I revised, and I revised, thrilled at the huge improvements I was making on every single page!

And then... and then it was done.

I had done all I knew how to do.

The book is now in the hands of another writer friend who will give it a final read before I send it to my agent to see what he thinks.

I should be relieved. And proud. And amazed by all I accomplished.

And I am. Sort of. But mostly I'm feeling . . . . empty. The project that occupied so much of my joyous labor is out in the world in its own right now. I have no new project under way and will need considerable pondering and musing and groping to find one. So instead of three hours of revision bliss a day, I have three hours of catching up on everything I left undone while in my revision vortext.

Also, now comes the most painful part by far of the writing life.

I adore the initial drafting of a book because, according to Jane Smiley, "Every first draft is perfect because all the first draft has to do is exist. It's perfect in its existence. The only way it could be imperfect would be to NOT exist."

I adore revising a book because, according to ME, all a revision has to do is to be better than the previous draft - well, VASTLY better, but believe me, my most recent draft is VASTLY better than the one the Roosters read (precisely because of their Rooster insights).

But at some point, if I want my book to be published, I have to produce a draft that not only exists, and is vastly better than previous drafts, but is actually GOOD. And this is something much harder to achieve. It is something only partially in my control.

Now I have to send my sweet book, the product of so many hours of love and bliss, out into the world, and what the world thinks about it matters now.

This is scary. Or actually, terrifying.

I know the way to deal with this terror. You can probably guess what I'm going to say.

The only way to hold onto the bliss of writing and revising that I experienced with this book is to start writing and revising the next one.

For now, though, I'm going to honor my need to grieve that THESE blissful weeks and months have come to an end.

Oh, little book, how I loved writing you! And revising you!

Oh, little book, I hope the world receives you kindly.

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