I have read hundreds of blog posts by authors and agents. So I know the logical mechanics of what comes next after you write a book.
- You make edits.
- You get feedback.
- You make more edits.
- You get more feedback.
- You make even more edits.
- Eventually you decide that if is as shiny as can be.
Once it’s as shiny as it can be you then start querying agents. And this step isn’t as easy as you think.
- You have to find the agents you want to query.
- You have to follow their guidelines.
- And you have to keep doing this until someone likes your stuff.
- And it might not be the right time for this project, so even though it’s as shiny as it can be, it might just not make it to landing you an agent.
And in the mean time you keep writing. You keep writing. You keep creating. You keep pushing yourself. Because you are going to keep going until you land an agent. And you keep going after that until your career looks like what you have imagined, because you are not a quitter, and you have poured too much handwork and determination into this. Those words, handwork and determination, feel so small compared to what you have done. You have bled, and chipped off pieces of your soul. You have sacrificed in the face of fear. You are a warrior, who wields a pen instead of a sword.
But what no one talks about in depth, are the feelings you are going to have along the way.
Going into this past weekend I was excited. I KNEW I could finish the project this weekend, and I was very excited about that possibility. And yet, on Sunday night, when I did finish it, what I felt was ragged. I felt emotionally flayed.
I proceeded to sit there in shock. I sent out a tweet. My husband came home, and I looked up at him and told him I finished the book. He said something, I don’t know what, and I told him I was just sitting there having all of the feels. A sentence I am thankful for having taught him, because he promptly new exactly what I needed. He folded me in his arms and held me, and our dogs pilled on top to snuggle. I really, really, really needed to be held.
The next day I told more people still, waiting for the shock to wear off, and yet, I was still in this state of I did the thing. Of incredulity.
The journey to finishing this book has been a hard one considering the turns that life has taken this past year. It has not been easy, and yet I’ve learned to get through. And what got me through was my writing. I would shore myself up, and push myself at my writing, because it was the only thing I could control.
But now that I have finished it, I am bereft. I feel like I am a ship without moor.
Logically I know the next steps. I know them. And yet I sit here empty.
How do I start over again at the beginning of this journey? How do I start from nothing and work my way back… or is it forward??? to this point again. Especially, knowing what I went through to get here.
We don’t always talk about feelings because they are messy things. We write about them in our books yes, but our own, we keep in a fortress of solitude. Lest we be hurt. Lest we be judged. It’s easier if we all put on the armour and pretend like everything is okay, even when it’s not, because that is what the inspirational posters tell us to do. Tell us who we should be. Those posters, say keep on climbing. You can’t get to the top if you don’t keep on keeping on. And smile for the privilege of this challenge. So we pretend untruths.
I’m going to tell you that’s it’s okay if you don’t feel how you think you should feel. It’s okay if you aren’t jump up and down and happy. It’s okay to come crashing to a halt, and need some time to get your feet back on the ground and come to terms with that incredible mountain you just climbed. It’s okay to look upon that mountain in shock and awe, and wonder what is next, and feel this gaping void inside of you. It’s okay to fill that void with mindless distractions because you can’t stand to stare at the bigger questions right now, your still too fresh, too raw.
A lot of people will ask what’s next, and they mean the best buy it. They will say congratulations and be jubilant, and you want to be jubilant too, but you’re not. You’ll look at those next steps, and you will know them logically, much the same way you know how to walk, one foot in front of the other. Knowing the mechanics, doesn’t mean you have to race out right now and perform those mechanics.
No one said it. Or if they did I don’t remember it. Maybe it is an unspoken truth. But I’m here to speak it. This process of grief is normal. You have poured so much of yourself into the thing, it is okay to feel loss. It’s okay to be devastated. Give yourself time, you will heal.
You’ll find the things that pull you through. It might be a good book, or a conversation with a close friend, and little by little you will come out of that shell shocked state.
But I want you to know, that your feelings are valid. It’s okay to take time to feel them.