Five years ago this month, I started writing a novel. At the time I remember thinking, “This will probably take me four or five years.”
Now, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. But I’m amazed at how realistic I was. In fact, half a decade later I’m not done – but I’m getting there. This blog has been quiet, but I’ve been bearing down on the last sections of the book, and now I’m making major revisions to the final section. Then there’s the prologue to write. Then more (but less strenuous, I hope) revisions to smooth things out.
I’m not celebrating this five-year anniversary, because it’s too soon to celebrate – that will happen when I finish the goddamn thing. But I do want to mark it, to pat myself on the back a little for making it this far, and to acknowledge all the other people in the world who set out on long creative journeys while juggling family, work, friends, faith, and life.
Sometimes writing a novel feels out of control – there are those night sweats where you wake up thinking, “Will I ever finish this goddamn thing?” But my novel has also given me excuses to take control over my life at times when I felt a deep loss of it. When my husband and I were having difficulty conceiving, I applied for and got accepted to a writing residency, an amazing experience of writing all day, every day that I otherwise might not have had. When it seemed like motherhood and work were too much, I applied for a county arts grant. Three weeks at the Library of Congress researching my novel and ogling shelves and shelves of books. It wasn’t relaxing, but it was awesome. When it seemed like motherhood and work were too much again, I cut back my work hours so that I could work on my novel during the day, and be a less-stressed wife and mom in the evening and on weekends.
Doing things for ourselves, taking control: These are things many of us struggle with. So even though there have been times when the novel was REALLY STRESSING ME OUT, it’s mostly been a lifeline for me.
The people around me have been a lifeline too: my husband, who always supports my crazy ideas, and the coworkers who stepped in for me in my several leaves of absence, and my mom, who was busting with pride at the thesis reading for my creative-writing master’s, and the random person in the audience who said she couldn’t wait to read my book when it was done (God bless her), and my teachers and classmates in the graduate program, who made me feel like there was a reason to keep writing, and my friend S, who actually seems to be enjoying reading my drafts.
When I finish this goddamn thing, it’ll be for them as much as for me.