Inching Forward

Writing a novel is definitely a marathon and not a sprint. I knew this before I started. I know it more now. I’m days away from having the final product from the editor. Well, sort of final. I then have to make one more pass to put in a few changes. Clarity on details keep coming.

In some ways, this is the most frightening thing about declaring this novel “done.” There are two more books to write before this story is told, and this world is still revealing itself to me. I know there are more surprises ahead. Which one of them will make me realize that I didn’t set that up in the first novel, and now I either can’t use it, or I use it and hope nobody notices. I almost want to finish all three before trying to publish, but there is simply no way I could afford to do that.

When this one is done, it has to be well enough crafted to be a solid foundation to tell the rest of the story. That’s terrifying. Though, I will probably be done with the second novel before the first would be published, so I suppose maybe there are still opportunities for edits to volume 1.

In adding new chapters at the end, I was pleased to see not only an improvement in my writing, but an improvement in my attitude. When I first got notes and questions from my editor, my inner voice was defensive and resentful. I had worked so hard. How could there be holes? How could there be problems? How on earth was I going to find a way to fix them? It was impossible and I should just give up! I’m a terrible writer and too old to be starting novels. This time, when I got notes and questions, I was excited. I have come to realize whenever I have been pushed, either by a professor, or now an editor, the end product is always vastly better than the original. Those notes and questions mean I’m going to tell a better story. That excites me. While there will always probably be a tinge of panic that I can’t find a solution to the problem, it is quickly smothered with the curiosity of following the problem to its source and its solution, as well as the excitement of a better story. Growth!

By the end of the week I plan to have the manuscript to a proofreader, and after that, it is off to the literary agency that expressed interest in reading it. I really should be working on a query letter for other agencies, because the chances of being taken on by the very first agency are about the same as me winning the lottery tonight. Well, slightly better since I don’t have a lottery ticket. And maybe in this case, just a fraction better than normal because this is a connection from my editor. But still, I shouldn’t start planning my first book tour just yet. Oh goodness, I dread that part of the job (though would be lucky to experience it). Writers are introverts. Crowds, especially crowds of strangers, drain us. Why on earth would you make us do book tours and public appearances? Just let us sit in our offices and dream stories!

The last two years have been beautiful. I will always be grateful for this opportunity. I hope it’s not over. I hope my talent is enough to get me to the other side of the chasm, and I can continue to do what I love to do.

Here we go…

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I Yam What I Yam

As I had hoped in last week’s blog, there is positive news to report this week. Regardless of whether or not the sale falls apart in the last few days, I am leaving LA on Friday. My car has been sold. Reservations have been made. It’s so exciting I can barely stand it. There have also been sad goodbyes along the way. I just don’t understand why my friends don’t move wherever I move so we can keep hanging out. I mean really!

Whole30 came to a rapid close when my digestive tract decided to absolutely flip out. At the moment, eating anything but yogurt makes me nauseous and I have constant heartburn. Those are just the symptoms I’m willing to talk about. I lost 2 days to really miserable intestinal pain. I’m 50 so one of the first things I do when I get to my new home is find a doctor and get that fabulous colonoscopy scheduled.

But now the lazy, joy-following period is done. I’m glad I had it because recent weeks have allowed a lot of introspection and have been a revelation to me. As I have felt free to be myself, I have found joy again. When I first came to Hollywood I worried that it would change me. It did, but not in the way I expected. I was worried that I would become arrogant and entitled. Too big for my britches. Instead, I got too small for my britches. I became diminished. It didn’t happen quickly. Over the past… oh… 15 years, I have undergone a gradual transformation into someone I didn’t like much. Now that I’m out of that situation, I see so much more clearly. I look at that person and think, “Who was that?” I look at myself now, and think, “Hey, you’re pretty fun! Let’s go have an adventure”

So how did it happen?

The first 10 years of life in California were freeing. I grew up in rural South Dakota, a sensitive, liberal, creative person who just always felt out of place. In California, it felt like I’d finally found a place where I wasn’t different because everyone was different. First, I was freelancing, meeting new people and new celebrities every day, which was just thrilling. Then I was on a quirky late night talk show that nobody watched and so nobody paid much attention to our motley little group. I was the only woman on the crew, which meant I was often excluded, but on the good side, there was little pressure to be anything other than who I was. I fell into the traditional female role of the mother of the stage. I brought the baked goodies. I organized gifts and cards, and gathered funds for them. I had a role.

When hosts switched and our show became a little more mainstream, the staff and crew grew. As an introvert, I began to feel lost and constantly overlooked. Other people were more exciting and interesing… more shiny, as one friend says. My role disappeared and I wasn’t quite sure how I fit in with this younger, more hip Hollywood crowd. That’s when the gradual changes began. I started dressing differently. Got interested in the things everyone else was interested in. Quit talking about the things I was passionate about. Yes, it took until I was in my 40s but I finally succumbed to peer pressure. I began to be a warped version of myself. I was there, but not quite.

For the most part, my methods seemed to work. On the surface, I fit in. Superficially it all seemed fine, until one day I learned it really wasn’t. When others faced trouble, I’d seen the wagons circle, but for me they scattered. Feeling alone and vulnerable, I armored up. It was a painful period because I realized that I was tolerated more than included. Not only had I failed to be accepted, but now I was left with this person I didn’t like much. I slipped back into a familiar coping mechanism when faced with something I had to endure. I suited up with thick plate armor, looked neither left nor right, and marched down the field, warding off whatever blows came my way until I got to the other side. After one hiatus, wonderful periods where my true self would surface and gasp for air, I was talking on the phone with a friend and joked, “Yeah, hiatus is over, now I have to put on the armor of bitterness and anger.” We laughed, but it was actually heartbreaking.

Did I really need to have such strong protection? Of course not. It was just the method that had worked so well in the past. This time, having processed the entire episode as an adult, I am hoping to avoid going through the pattern again.

In fact, I am making myself a promise to help prevent it. From now on, I refuse to be anyone other than who I am. I’m going to like what I like, think what I think, do what I do, dress how I dress, and if those things agree with you? Great. Let’s hang out. If not, have a lovely life with people that are more your speed. If that means I end up alone, well at least I will have the company of someone I like.

I yam what I yam.

So now, the yam I yam is off to adventure. I’ll try to post from the road but we shall see.

The leap is about to commence….

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