Now that the book is done

Yes, it’s finished! The project that consumed me for most of the past two years (and much of several years before that) is safely in the publisher’s hands. Best of all, the editor has glowing words to say about it and feels it will be helpful to many people. I couldn’t hope for better. The pub date is not yet set, but as soon as it is, believe me, I’ll pass it along!

In the weeks since pressing “send” on the manuscript, I’ve had some time to reflect on the strange experience of writing a book—and a few things about the end of the process that surprised me.

How much solitude I needed. Writers’ colonies must feel like heaven. I wasn’t fortunate enough to attend one, but I had the next best thing: a quiet, sunlit house with a bay window beside my desk, where I could watch birds flitting, hear squirrels chattering, and see prairie grasses waving in the wind. Over the summer I followed wave after wave of fledging birds in the trees outside my window; every few weeks a new crop of hungry, chittering youngsters drove their parents batty with their demands.

Though I’d enjoyed this little retreat corner throughout much of the book, as I neared the end of the writing I needed to dig for an even deeper layer of quiet. Perhaps it was exhaustion setting in, or maybe the end of every book is so demanding. For whatever reason, as I crept up on the final pages I craved total absorption—the kind that can happen only when the house is empty. My sweetheart obligingly left town for a couple of long weekends, leaving me to finish the book in utter quiet. Okay, so he had family business to attend to, and he didn’t vacate just for me. Even so, I reveled in the stillness. And because of it, the last chapter took shape faster than I expected.

How tiring the end can be. The final six months of writing were a marathon: parking myself in front the computer hour after hour, day after day, nonstop. By the last couple of chapters, I felt depleted. I began to understand why some books read like their authors ran out of steam. They probably did. The truth is, rather than be surprised at the tiredness, I ought to be surprised at the stamina.

How hard it is to have a book finished. I loved writing the book—even those last couple of chapters. It was the feeling of finishing that took me completely by surprise.

For weeks I’d been looking forward to sinking into a plush bed of relief and accomplishment. About a month before the end, I woke up one morning with the suddenly new thought: I’m nearly done writing a book! Elation began creeping up on me. I could almost taste it.

But the book was not yet done. I couldn’t afford to pause and savor the triumph. Not yet! I had to put my head down and focus on the end of the race. There would be plenty of time for elation later.

But it was not to be. As soon as I’d crossed the finish line, elation was nowhere to be found. Instead, I sank into a funk: postpartum depression hit full-on.

Now, a couple months later, it makes sense: this project I’d devoted heart and soul to for years suddenly went away, disappeared, taking with it the sense of meaning and purpose that fueled my life for years. Instead of a circle completed, I was left with the feeling of a circle dangling open, unable to be closed. The only way to complete it will be to hear from readers, to talk with others about the book—months from now when the book comes out. And until then, the best I can do is begin prepping for interviews and readings and media appearances.

But after sending the book in, though I was desperate for the next phase, at the same time I was too tired to prepare for it. Now was the time to unwind instead. So my sweetie and I went on a well-earned vacation, and the sun and the breezes and the creatures we met up with on our trip worked their magic. I came home restored.

The elation, strangely enough, hasn’t been back. Those ten minutes of tasting it were apparently all I get. But what is developing now is a calmer, quieter feeling of satisfaction. I look back on the manuscript and realize—all those things I yearned to say, I said. All those feelings I wanted to evoke—I believe readers will feel them.

And if my editor says the book will be helpful to many, that’s good enough for me. For now.

But I can’t wait until the circle is complete—when the book comes out next year.

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16 Responses to Now that the book is done

  1. Craig Strobel says:December 4, 2011 at 9:43 pm

    Priscilla:
    Congratulations on completing this phase of the book. And I can relate to your feelings. I am getting serious about putting together proposals for three book projects I have had in the wings, and I appreciated hearing your reflections on your experience. All the best to you, and I look forward to reading your book .

    • Priscilla Stuckey, PhD says:December 5, 2011 at 12:52 pm

      Thanks, Craig!

  2. Thanks for putting the process into words. I’m with you all the way. I, too, found the process of writing and completing to be full of surprises. And then, there’s the published author piece. Quite the journey. A big congratulations to you, Priscilla. I can’t wait to read your book.

    • Priscilla Stuckey, PhD says:December 5, 2011 at 12:54 pm

      Linda, I take inspiration from your big heart and calm spirit during the media attention.

  3. And does “the book” have a name or is it still awaiting a title? I agree with your terrific reflections–I was numb for a while after my book COACHING C.L.U.E.S. was completed and didn’t know it.

    • Priscilla Stuckey, PhD says:December 5, 2011 at 12:52 pm

      Marian, the book doesn’t yet have a final title. Editing and production will ramp up after the holidays, and I expect that conversation to happen soon.

  4. Rivvy Neshama says:December 5, 2011 at 8:40 pm

    Thank you, Priscilla, for sharing so honestly the process and your reactions to the different stages. I’m still in the “waiting stage” — waiting to find a publisher who will say, Yes, I’ll take this one, platform be damned! Meanwhile, the book sits in my drawer and I feel the loss and longing of post-partum depression that you describe so well.

    On a positive side, how wonderful to hear those words from your editor! How exciting to be planning interviews and readings! And how beautiful it will be when your book is finally born to the world! I look forward to greeting it!

    • Priscilla Stuckey, PhD says:December 6, 2011 at 10:28 am

      Yes, it’s limbo land after the book is done but before it finds a home with readers. All my best to you, Rivvy, in the waiting process!

  5. dana says:December 6, 2011 at 7:57 am

    i am so happy for you. congratulations. seems like ions ago we were sitting in a warm, flower-filled meadow anticipating your success.

    cheers,

    dana

    • Priscilla Stuckey, PhD says:December 6, 2011 at 10:30 am

      And guess what, Dana, I just this week found the energy to revisit that meadow. You’ll be hearing from me soon.

  6. Most interesting to me is how short the period of elation was. I’ve experienced this also, and keep coming back to the conclusion that the greatest satisfaction comes from writing. We are driven by the desire to finish, and must stoke the flames of desire in order to finish. Then when we’re done, we collapse with disappointment that we are finished. My solution, which I’ve stumbled on of late, is to not stop. I hope to build my platform (hate that word!) by publishing shorter essays and articles on topics I also explored in my book. I find that now I’m free of the book and the voice and narrative I was building there, I can explore these topics in new ways. I’m excited all over again.

    Can’t wait to read your completed book, Priscilla. I was privileged to see parts of it as you were writing it, and I know we’re all in for a wonderful treat.

    • Priscilla Stuckey, PhD says:December 6, 2011 at 12:11 pm

      Julene, I like your solution—just keep writing! I’m thrilled that you’re pursuing it because what you have to say is so critical at this moment in time. And I’m thrilled for you that you’re finding an audience.

  7. So many different responses to finishing a book! In my own case (at least for now, before its eventual editor offers suggestions), is falling easily into deep stillness, like the vibrant silence of falling snow.

    • Priscilla Stuckey, PhD says:December 6, 2011 at 11:12 am

      How wonderful, Gail, to enjoy some stillness rather than this fussing some of the rest of us are experiencing! May your book find its way to the right editor.

  8. So many congratulations, Priscilla. I know what you mean about that “what now?!” feeling once your overwhelming concern has been taken care of. I hope you get ample chance to enjoy your amazing accomplishment!

  9. Krista Brown says:December 18, 2011 at 10:56 pm

    As always Aunt P, we are proud of you. You faced a frightening battle with writing a book and was the victor! Congratulations on the success of completion!