This past weekend, Wallaby, his grandma (J-ma) and I went to the Connecticut Romance Writers' fabulous conference. Before, my conference itinerary used to sound a whole lot like: Hang out in the coffee shop and write; go to workshops; give talks; meet with agent; meet with editor; hang out in the bar and socialize. Sleep a few hours when and where convenient; maybe hit the gym or go for a walk outside.
Now, they're more like:
Whee! It's five a.m. and we're someplace new! Let's investigate!
Whee! Let's zoom up and down the really long, nicely carpeted hallway and back!
Whee! Breakfast! Let's wear some eggs! Then hug mommy in her conference clothes!
And after that, there are high-level negotiations regarding when and where Wallaby and the Boobs will rendezvous in and amongst me giving talks, going to workshops, etc., and he and J-ma go off for their day's adventures.
Then I take a breath, and shuffle my identity back to WriterJess for a few hours, before we rinse and repeat the above.
Which, really, is lovely. But life then doesn't look much like life now, and vice versa. And neither does my writing. Where before, I could tune out the universe and write for eight or ten hours, or longer, these days I get two precious hours in the morning before Arizona starts working, and another couple after Wallaby goes to bed (if I can stay awake that long). Which has led to some self-kicking in recent months--you know, that inner monolog that goes something like:
I used to write fast.
I should have this book done by now.
I can't believe I'm not even halfway done.
This is crap.
No, really, it's crap. Why am I even bothering?
I need to throw out a chapter. That took me two f*cking weeks to write.
To say that I wasn't really feeling the love of being at a writers' convention this past weekend would be a gross understatement of my angst. But I was scheduled to give a couple of workshops and see one of my best writer-pals (shout out, Virginia Kantra!!) along with one of my best gal-pals (shout out Gail Chianese!!) and many other awesome friends, so I couldn't very well bail.
So I went. And to say I felt out-of-step with the crowd would be putting it mildly, at least when it came to talking about writing stuff. I don't have my next book scheduled. I'm not really ready to talk about the Trainwreck-In-Progress. I'm writing … sort of … but …
Then came breakfast on Saturday. I usually sneak out on keynotes, but the speaker was (fabulous mystery writer and Emmy-winning reporter) Hank Phillipi Ryan, who I've known since she first started writing, so I stuck around. I know she gives good talk.
I hadn't expected her to give me an AHA. Followed by a DUH. (Not that she said something stupid, but that what she said made me give myself a big old dope slap.)
Because she talked about Not Giving Up. About how she gets to a point in her writing where she just wants to chuck the whole project in the electronic garbage. About how Stephen King's wife had to rescue Carrie from the trash. About how the book is rarely (never?) as bad as we think it is in that moment, and we should just keep pushing through.
And you know what? Ninety percent of the audience members were nodding. Which was right about when I reminded myself (as I had been doing all week, but this time it stuck) that I always hate my book when it's about halfway done, and it's never as bad as I think it is. Or if it is, I always figure out how to fix it. (And, as they say, admitting you have a problem is the first step to overcoming it.)
Damned if I didn't come out of that breakfast, not just wearing some of my scrambled eggs (thanks, kiddo), but feeling like I was back in the tribe, no longer alone on a tiny little island in the middle of the Sea of What The Hell Happens Next? And knowing that no matter what, I'm not going to give up.