These two messages tug and pull at me every day when I open my journal or sit at my writing desk.
The voice in my head sets my heart to racing. I have to finish this book! What am I waiting for? I’m only half done.
As if hearing the same voice, my office clock ticks like the beats of a gong. I find some Tchaikovsky on YouTube, hoping to drown it out.
Isn’t this what all the Famous Authors tell us? I recently read a post on a writing magazine site to this effect: What’s your hurry? That’s the trouble with all you “amateurs.” You’re in too much of a hurry! You rush through your first draft and try to sell it as a final draft. You don’t take the time you need. Why don’t you slow down and enjoy the ride? Etc.
This said by the Famous Author (or at least the Author with a Contract) who has an agent and a history of solid book sales. Why should he be in a hurry? Sure, he has a deadline for every new book, but he doesn’t have a day job or the specter of the last failed manuscript dogging at his heels.
Hurry up. All of a sudden, everyone I know is posting pictures of their new book. There they are, dozens of author copies nestled in a box. Look at that elegant cover, with the author’s name in prominent type. And read the wonderful review from Publisher’s Weekly.
Good God, didn’t Writer X just have a book out? Is everybody Joyce Carol Oates all of a sudden?
My first novel was published in 2008. Six years ago. And though I published one on my own since, we all know that doesn’t count. We won’t even talk about the third novel, a disaster muddied by too much advice during graduate school.
Fourth novel: half done, shelved, temporarily. Fifth novel: Not saying a word about it. Not one word.
OK. A few words about it. I work on it spurts: Hurrying up, slowing down. Journaling about it. Yes, I know journal isn’t a verb. Thinking about it, setting it aside, picking it up again.
I have all the time in the world: I’m only teaching two classes this semester. I have two afternoons and two solid, empty, beckoning days a week to write. So how come I’m not getting any more writing done than when I taught four classes?
Because that is the pace of this work. Hurry up. Slow down. While I toil away, others blow by me, leaving me in the dust. While I try to figure out this business of writing (why doesn’t it get easier? Will I ever know what the hell I’m doing? Will I ever be published again?), others finish first, go on book tours, get rave reviews.
There’s nothing to do but turn up Tchaikovsky and continue to stumble along, fast, slow, energized, stalled, the tortoise and the hare both, hoping to cross the finish line eventually.