The 26th of this month was my very first novel, The Initiation of Ms Holly’s, 4thbirthday. A lot has happened since then. Ten novels, four novellas and multiple short stories later, it’s not so unusual that I would find myself reflecting. In so many ways, Holly is a watershed. Life before Holly was a different animal than life after Holly, and the lessons I’ve learned along the way are often not the ones I would have expected to learn. In fact, there’s a lot I never expected about being a novelist.
Writer’s block is NOT the problem! The real problem, at least for me, has always been not having enough time
to write all the stories in my head. In fact, my best writer’s wet dream is to have a month in which all I have to do is write. Ah yes! I can picture the place in my head. Well, actually, the place is far less important to me than the schedule. I can picture the schedule in my head, though. I get up in the morning. I have coffee, breakfast and write until I need a break. Then I go for a walk or work out followed by a good wallow in a nice bathtub – that’s the days inspiration sorted. Then … Well, then I write some more. And I keep writing. Add food (That I don’t have to prepare) drink, and sleep as needed. There would be no PR or marketing to be done, no laundry, ironing, or shopping of any kind. I would write … just write. Ooooh! I’m all aflutter just thinking about it.
Writing takes up all the space. I don’t mean that writing takes up all the space I allow it, I mean that it takes up ALL of the space. Before Holly, I seem to recall that I had a life, of sorts, that I had fantasies and plans and holidays and free time like everyone else did. After Holly, all of me was consumed by the writing life. I don’t mean just writing the story. Would that that were the case! I mean nurturing the stories that I’ve already sent out into the world, seeing that they get the attention and support that they need, making sure that my brands – K D Grace and Grace Marshall are known as far and as wide as I can possibly shout out the news. That takes time and energy – especially for an introvert.
It isn’t so much that the writing life consumes all of my time as it is that it consumes all of my thoughts. If I’m folding laundry, I’m writing in my head. If I’m walking, I’m writing in my head. If I’m sleeping, I’m writing in my head. Writing has become the oxygen that surrounds everything without displacing anything, while at the same time making me wonder how I survived without it.
I’m totally ravenous to read! I am SO greedy! I just can’t get enough time with a good book. And here’s the really amazing thing about time spent reading: the more time I spend reading, the more the time I spend writing is quality time. I learned my craft by reading, by analyzing, by trying to understand what other authors did that worked or, in some cases, didn’t work. I suppose that technically I’m never really reading for pure pleasure. I would be really amazed if any novelist ever did. But it doesn’t really matter, because it feels like pleasure to me. And how cool is it that such a pleasure can also make me a better writer.
Being a Writer is Messy. I’ve had this vision in my head about becoming a writer since I was a kid. In my mind’s eye it was always sort of a caterpillar to butterfly transformation that I imagined happening in my life. In my mind’s eye with the publication of my first novel, I would suddenly be glamorous, poised, outgoing, sexy. In my mind’s eye, the transformation was glitzy and polished to a dazzling sheen.
But being a writer is so much messier than I’d expected. The self-doubts didn’t go away. They just invited a whole new circle of friends. I quickly discovered that thhe only thing truly more frightening than failure was a little success. Writing plays on all my fears and neuroses. Okay, sure, I then turn them around and shove them onto my characters, but I still twitch and squirm while I’m doing it, and I’m still astounded at how totally unpolished and awkward I am! And doubts. OMG! I doubt everything about myself all the time! It wasn’t supposed to be like that – at least not in my fantasies. But the truth is, after four years, I realize I’m not the woman in my fantasies and I never will be, and it’s okay. Well at least most of the time it’s okay. And on the good days, I understand that if I were to become the woman in my fantasies, I would most likely have nothing interesting left to write about.
I’m not fit to do anything else. Every once in a while I read a post or a news article about some writer who has
given it up for good because it’s just not working for them. I sympathise, really I do. God it gets hard sometimes. But on the days I doubt my choices the most, the cold slap in the face that brings me back to myself is that I’m not fit to do anything else but write. I’ve never wantedto do anything else but write. And it’s still the passion that gets me out of bed early in the morning and keeps me up late at night. It’s still the passion that excites me and leaves me breathless and plotting and scheming for just the right words until my brain hurts. I may not be fit for anything else, but this craft, this skill of building a story one word, one sentence, one paragraph at a time, well, it suits me. It really does, even in the Post Holly Era.