The Letdown

From my experience, there’s always a bit of a letdown after you complete a big project. You’re not really depressed, but you’re not really as happy as you feel like you should be. There’s this moment of euphoria — OMFG I DID IT I FINISHED — and then you’re just kind of… there. Staring at this thing you’ve created, blinking, and saying, “Huh. There it is.” It happened when I finished my senior thesis, it happened when I completed NaNoWriMo, and it’s happened again now.

This time I knew it was coming, though. I was burnt out from the mad dash that was December and needed a break. I told myself, “It’s ok to feel a little lost for a couple weeks. You just watch as much bad TV as you need to fill the void.”

(Let me tell you, guys. I’ve watched a lot of Scandal over the past few weeks. A lot.)

I set a plan: take January off from writing, and then come February 1, start revisions. This seemed smart — a finite chunk of time, but still long enough to recuperate. I could still putter around a bit, write some blog posts. But no serious writing projects. No serious writing, period. I need the break, a time to regroup my thoughts and energies and feel ready to tackle revisions come February. I need time and space so when I go back to that first draft, I’m able to see the forest for the trees.

But it’s lonely, letting go of a project and suddenly not having that nagging obsession, that storyline running through your head. Not bad, per se. Just a drastic change in pace.

And then one night when I was lying in bed, reading, I remembered. “I had that new book idea I wanted to work on. I’m not writing anything now. I could start work on that.”

And I got so excited about the idea of working on the next project, flushing out these new ideas, feeling that rush once again — and then I shut it down. I mean, let’s be honest here — if I start work on yet another project, I am not going to start revisions in February. Or if I do start revisions… well, that’s not fair to the book I will have just started. It needs its own time, its own devotion.

So I reaffirmed my plan to take off January. No serious writing. Just let my brain relax, drift. Let the fingers lose their cramps and the writer’s slump uncurl.

That is, until I woke up this past Sunday with a full-fledged short story kicking in my head. I got out of bed, went into the office, and started typing. And I was happy. Oh so happy.

Part of the letdown of having finished a big project is one underlying fear: will I have another idea? Will I ever be able to top this? Will this be the last story that ever comes out of me?

It’s good to know the fear is unfounded. It’s good to know the well is not yet dried up, that ideas still spawn in the dark recesses of the brain. The letdown is still there, but there’s a flicker at the end of the tunnel, something beckoning and calling onward.

I’m still not starting revisions until February. But as for January being a total break month… well, sorry, fingers. You may have to get typing once again.

The Next Big Idea

When inspiration strikes, you gotta get it down — even if the closest thing available is an old J. Crew catalog.

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I’ve been mulling over this new story idea for a while, and suddenly a little nugget popped into my brain that makes the whole thing go click. Puzzle pieces fell into place, motives became established. I was incredibly excited (as you could probably tell from my scrawling handwriting) and am still pretty jazzed about the development.

Problem is — I’m not finished with my current book. And I have a firm “no working on the new story until the current one is done” policy. It’s too easy to get sidetracked, too easy to turn away from the work at hand and never return. So as excited as I am about this new idea — I need to focus on the old one.

And really, I need to get moving on the old one. Over dinner the other night, Byron pointed out that I only have a few months left if I want to meet my goal of finishing the first draft by the end of the year.

“How close do you think you are to finishing?” he asked.

I thought about it a moment. “Probably two-thirds of the way through.”

“That’s all? I thought you were further along.”

Which, truth be told — I might be? I’m definitely in the latter half of the book, but am having a hard time judging exactly how much there is left. (The outline helps, of course, but some parts will move along at a faster clip than others, and I’m not sure yet which parts those will be).

And I think I can meet my goal — I know I can — but I really need to buckle down and start churning out that word count. Which may turn me into more of a shut-in than I already am. How do writers have social lives, that’s what I want to know. If you don’t see me for a few months, you know where I’ll be — here, at this desk, at this computer, slumped over the keyboard as I race towards the finish line.