Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Down Time

Right now, I'm in the midst of some serious downtime.

It's not exactly of my choosing. In early May, I sent off my finished manuscript to my agent and I'm still waiting to hear back. It's been a month and a half and I'm trying to be patient. Book Expo America happened somewhere in the middle and I'm sure he was busy with that. He has other clients. It takes a long times to read 156,000 word document.

But I'm trying to be patient. I'm dying to hear what he thinks.

I might just send him an e-mail in a week or two if I don't hear back, but I know I haven't been forgotten. This, my friends, is the nature of the publishing business. It's S-L-O-W. If we do manage to find a publisher, I know that my book won't hit the shelves until about two years from now. At least. If it takes a client two months to hear from an agent, you can maybe understand why unsigned writers wait upwards of 3-6 months to hear anything.

What to do in the meantime?

The smart thing to do is to roll right into another project, to get so excited about something new that I forget I'm waiting to hear back, but I'm finding that to be difficult. The kids are out of school. The neglected corners of my life need some attention. I've been re-reading a few abandoned pieces and the novel I started a few years ago--but my bookshelf, stocked with all that delicious summer reading, seems much more appealing. I'm gardening, cooking, enjoying my children, and just taking a moment to exhale. In the vernacular of Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way, I'm filling the well.

When I was a ghostwriter my schedule required that I produce a 250-page book every six weeks, with an additional two weeks for revisions. Even with an outline, even with such light material as comedic teenage angst, it was a tough schedule. On my own, now with considerably more responsibilities and subject matter requiring a bit more thought, I'm on track to produce a book every 5-10 years. My writing is slow, thoughtful, deliberate. I often berate myself for being so slow. I know I could work harder, put in more hours, but writing isn't my everything. And I feel almost apologetic about it.

In April, I had the chance to meet the extraordinary writer, Andre Dubus III. In the few minutes we spoke, I sensed he was also an extraordinary human being. He asked me what I did for work and I told him I was a writer. I told him I was on the verge of completing my second adult novel, which took me nearly nine years to write. I was a little embarrassed by this, citing my twin girls as one of the reasons it took me so long. I admitted I found it hard to work as much as I'd like given the demands of family life. Writing, for me, takes quiet and concentration. Family life is noisy, complicated, messy. (For example, in the forty-five minutes that I've been writing this blog post, I've been interrupted about once every five minutes.)

Mr. Dubus looked up from the book he was signing and said with the utmost sincerity, "Your life comes first. Enjoy your daughters. Wait until they're all grown up, then you can write a million books."

I wish it were that simple, but the sentiment was certainly a relief to hear. I think of it often. When I grow old, will I regret not publishing more often? Probably not. But I would definitely regret missing out on my daughters' childhoods. What's the point of writing if there's no life to write about?


Janet said...

I can certainly relate--to all of it--the value of raising your daughters, the draw of down time, the extreme slowness of the writing itself. Thanks.

Stephanie Doyon said...

Thanks for your comment, Janet. It's always great to connect with other writers--especially those who are also mothers. Best of luck with your work.