Boiling

Whenever I finish a big writing project, like a book, I feel completely spent and empty. The only things I can write for months afterward are flash fiction, (bad) poems, or blog posts. Sometimes only blog posts, and sometimes not even that.

I have heard other writers describe this feeling of being empty and raw, scraped clean from the inside, as if you are a carcass whose organs are feeding vultures and coyotes.

The sense of relief and accomplishment at having completed a project I’ve been working on for years soon devolves into panic that I will never, ever, be able to write another word again.

I know now, from experience, that this isn’t true. I will write again, always. It’s not a process that can be rushed. That only leads to frustration and unnecessary struggle. It’s better to wait. To think. Read. Play board games. Take the dogs on walks.

And eventually, I will wake up in the morning, and feel that urgency again. That burning need to get it all down on the page before it evaporates like smoke. Because I’ve always got something on the back burner, heat turned down to low.

But even on low, eventually the water boils.

 

Make room for the new

Every night I come home from work and think to myself, “I must write that post on X!” (where X is usually a book I’ve read that has blown my mind). But then I sit down to nurse my various aches and pains (left heel, lower back, head) and pick up a new book or put Bones on Netflix and zone out.

Before I blink, it’s way past my bedtime and I’m too tired to write anything.

Most of this has to do with the new position I started at a new library branch. Someone decided it was a good idea to put me in charge of things, so I’m using my brain a lot to get us moving toward our organization’s best practices.

Using my brain makes me tired.

But there’s more to my failure to write (fiction and blog posts) over the past two weeks. Something happened that made me think, “Oh damn, shit just got real,” and it has me terrified. I will decline to discuss the event in question, but I can sum it up like this: People are reading my stories and are responding to them in positive ways.

This makes me ecstatic, but it’s also terrifying. Writing, revising, and submitting my work alone in my house is easy. No one’s scrutinizing what I’m doing. There’s a sort of freedom in anonymity. But of course I write because I have stories to tell, and although I would write them anyway, I really want people to read and engage with my work.

And they are. And that’s wonderful, and it makes me so happy. But I suppose it’s a lot to adjust to while I’m also adjusting to a new job and new living arrangements.

So I’ve been doing what my therapist always tells me to do—I’m being kind to myself by not expecting too much right now. By letting myself read fantastic books and actually relax, for once.

TL;DR: I’m around, but not as much as I was before. I’m writing, but I’m not pressuring myself to meet specific goals right now. I’m giving myself time to adjust to the newness of things.

Find me at The Rumpus

Yesterday my first blog post for online literary-type magazine The Rumpus went live.

It’s called “Internet Content Mills Have Nothing on the Hardy Boys,” and you can read it here (don’t worry, it’s short—like this post).