Since I have a book release in less than four months, I decided to get some help with from Toastmasters. Toastmaster is an international club where people practice speaking and leadership skills. Or so I’ve been told. I’ve never actually been to a Toastmaster meeting. I tried to go to a meeting last night at a nearby community college, but after standing in an empty room for five minutes, I figured I was in the wrong place
Truman Capote once famously said “Finishing a book is just like you took a child out in the back yard and shot it.”
Um, no. I have children and it’s not even close.
But there are similarities. In both cases you become enormously tedious to people are not actively involved in writing a novel or raising a child.
When I first had a baby I walked around dirty and dazed and a little surprised to find myself out in the sunlight. On one of these outings I ran into a friend and we talked about music and bands and people we both knew.
“So what are you up to these days?” She asked.
“This thing,” I said, pointing at my two week old baby. Obviously.
“No, I meant creatively,” she said. And she laughed a little like I’d misunderstood the question and it was a bit funny. How could you mistake a baby for a fun project?
This is very similar to the conversation I have had with almost everyone over the last year about my upcoming novel debut.
Random Friend: When is your novel coming out?
Random Friend: Wow, that’s a long time from now. Why does it take so long?
Me: I have no idea.
Random Friend: Can't you speed it up?
Me: No. It doesn’t have anything to do with me.
Random Friend: (yawning) Oh. So what are you doing now?
Me: Waiting around for stuff to happen.
After a while having a debut novel starts to feel like a conversational dead end. It’s as though someone asked you what you were doing in January and you answered “painting my living room” and they asked you again in July and you said “painting my living room.” Any logical person would ask “Is your living room the Taj Mahal? Are you painting it with a toothbrush?”
And just like painting a living room everyone knows how to do it. They're pretty sure they could paint your living room over the course of a weekend, with a whole hell of a lot less personal drama and hand wringing.
There is no way to explain to the layperson how exciting, and fraught with existential terror the debut novelist experience is. But I think I’ve come up with a conversational gambit that while not strictly truthful, captures the feeling of being a debut novelist perfectly:
Random Friend: So what's up with you?
Me: I’ve liquidated my life savings and I’m planning to take all my money to Vegas to play Blackjack.
Random Friend: What?? When is this happening.
Random Friend: But that’s so soon. Are you sure you know what you’re doing?
Me: Well, I have spent the past four years huddled over my computer evenings and weekends learning the rules of blackjack. I think I’m prepared.
Random Friend: But it’s still gambling. You could lose everything. You could become famous as that person who lost their life’s savings at the black jack table.
Me: Good. I want to be famous.
Random Friend: Really? But you’re so shy. You want to be famous? You want to speak in public about your experiences at the tables?
Me: No, not really. Maybe? I’m not sure…
Random Friend: This plan seems half-baked. I’m worried about you.
Me: Yeah, I’m pretty stressed about it myself. But it’s my life's dream. I don't think I'd be happy if I didn't at least try.
Random Friend: Well, maybe you'll get rich. There's a lot of money in gambling, right?
Me: Not really. I mean if you're J.K. Rowling sure. But that's not the point. I'd be happy to break even. But it's really about the experience.
Random Friend: I don't understand.
Me: I'm not sure I do either.
I have to disagree with Truman Capote. Finishing a novel is not like shooting your child, not even close. It’s a much smaller experience akin to mortgaging your house and risking your saving and your sense of self-worth on a combination of gambling skill and good luck at the casinos.
In December. December 26th, to be exact.
I’m waiting for my editor to read pages of my new novel and to get back to me. She is a thoughtful and incisive editor, and whether she wants the novel or not she will have nice things to say about it. I’m not worried about what she will say, but I’m having a hard time focusing on my work while I wait for her to read. Waiting around for editorial notes makes me think I want a different career. Something steady and craft based, like blacksmithing.
The Internet is my friend.
The internet tells me fascinating stories about a Celtic warrior queen name Boudica, and a dead man on a beach named Taman Shud.
The internet shows me pictures of The Voynich manuscript and the Bayeux Tapestry over coffee while we discuss how the seeds of our current fascination with all thing apocalyptic have deeper roots in history and culture. The internet reassures me that the world is not coming to an end.
Or maybe it is. The internet doesn’t know for sure.
As I am an ADHD person, I am familiar with ADDITUDE Magazine. More than familiar, I surf it weekly, looking for new research and arcana about all things ADHD. This week there's an article comparing and contrasting ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder. Fascinating.
So I'm extra thrilled to have been asked to guest blog for them!
In every super hero comic book or movie, there’s always a bleak moment when the hero loses their power. The arc reactor on Iron Man’s suit runs out of paladium or vibranium or magic, and he plummets to the earth. Which by all reasons should turn him into a Tony Stark flavored goo, because—physics.
The most depressing quote about writing and distraction comes from J.K. Rowling:
“The funny thing is that, although writing has been my actual job for several years now, I still seem to have to fight for time in which to do it. Some people do not seem to grasp that I still have to sit down in peace and write the books, apparently believing that they pop up like mushrooms without my connivance.”
I’ve been in a bit of a writing slump lately. It started a few months ago with my trip to Connecticut and a gorgeous late winter snowfall.