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.