I’m new to the PBK blog, so you don’t know me very well. It’s really unfortunate that I’m jumping in now, because to tell the truth, I’m at my weirdest and worst.
That’s right. It’s deadline time.
Some clear-minded, efficient writers sit down each day and write clean, well-thought out pages, give them one pass or two or three, and move on to the next until they calmly reach “THE END”, sometimes self-assuredly announcing to friends, “I’ve turned in my book early!”
This blog is somewhat of a confessional, isn’t it? Here’s my confession: That’s not me. Ever. I’ve never had a “good” deadline. I’ve never turned in a book early or without being a half-hysterical mess when I press the SEND button. I never want to let a book go because it’s Still. Not. Perfect.
There’s more, I’m afraid. I’m not always a Happy Writer. Sometimes I can even be a Self Loathing Writer. I write out of order. I cut whole chapters that displease me. I doubt my choices, and go back and make different ones. Inevitably, these behaviors intensify as I get closer to my deadline, which means the final weeks for me are always a blur of story, wild emotions (mine AND my characters’), doubts, lack of sleep, eight inconvenient hours spent at my day job, family obligations and final-pages-yet-to-be-written-and-polished, and a plot still in need of a chiropractic adjustment.
Strangely, at my day job I’m the opposite. I’m confident. Efficient. Decisive. Cheerful! I finish my deadlines early, do a great job and leave every day feeling very much like a self-satisfied smarty pants.
Why the difference with my writing? I don’t know exactly. But writing feels so deeply personal, whereas the work I do at the office every day does not. When something comes from your heart, and represents you, you want it to be perfect. All writers are perfectionists, I think, but for some of us, perfectionism can turn into a scary, slobbering and sometimes destructive monster.
Never fear! I’m not going to go all Edgar Allan Poe on you! My only self-harming addictions during these dark times are Dove chocolates and Cheetos. But you may ask the question now: If writing puts a scary, slobbering and sometimes destructive monster inside your head, then why do you do it?
Because there’s nothing more satisfying than having written a book, and giving life to characters who despite all your fears and doubts, manage to exceed your expectations, be wonderful people and find their well deserved happily-ever-after. And there is no better feeling than hearing you’ve touched a reader’s heart and that your story made a positive difference in their day, or their week or even their life. I can’t not write. I couldn’t stop if I wanted to.
So how do I get through these final days, where I’m finishing a book?
1. I’ve embraced my “weird” process. I’ve stopped feeling ashamed for not always (okay, rarely) being a Happy Writer. I’ve accepted that this is the way I create. There’s a saying in Austin, TX. “KEEP AUSTIN WEIRD”. There’s a reason! Weird = Good! Or at least interesting.
3. I let my family support me. I used to feel that I had to do it all, even through my deadlines. This translated into The Martyr Syndrome, where I cooked dinner after coming home from work, helped with homework, made the necessary mid-week shopping trips, etc., etc…and then got snappy-snarly with my family for expecting it, which wasn’t fair because I didn’t ask them for help or let anyone know these couple of weeks needed to be different. I’ve mellowed out a bit. My husband can make the grocery runs and help with homework. And yes — we can have pizza or cereal or grilled cheese for dinner. Again.
5. I don’t read my negative reviews. I appreciate the time anyone takes to read and review my book, and truly believe reviewers are entitled to share their opinions with the world. Freedom! **Braveheart yell!** At the same time, the more cutting criticisms have a way of working their way into my mind and jumping out to taunt and dishearten when I’m deepest into my story, so I just don’t put them in my mind in the first place. (I already have enough criticisms of my own! Remember the scary, slobbering monster? Rawr!)
6. More. Chocolate!!!
7. I take comfort in my friends! My Happy Writer Friends, who hearten and inspire me, and my Self-Loathing Writer Friends, who understand. And also YOU, who have come to visit the blog today. Thanks for listening and cheering me on and wishing me the best with this book.
I know I should end this post with a conversation-starting question, but…I can’t think of one, and I’ve got to save what’s left of my creativity to finish this book. Feel free to say anything you like. Hugs to you all. I’ll see you on the other side of this deadline.
I’m Lily Dalton, also known on PBK as LA VIDA LOCA MOM. “Stay Calm and Carry On” has long been my mantra. Always and forever an Army brat, I find comfort in structure, pattern and stability, but with two teenagers in the family, a full time job and writing deadlines, I’ve learned to embrace the madness and…sleep less!