Writing a book is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.-- E.L. Doctorow
To write, you sit down at a typewriter and bleed. --Ernest Hemingway
Stephen King talks about diving into a dark pool or digging up fossils.
Maybe we speak metaphorically about writing because the literal description is so boring. Basically, writing a book involves parking your ass down and picking up a pen or typing on a keyboard until you finish writing it. Sometimes this take months.
Sometimes it takes years.
You are alone. Or you are surrounded by people in a coffee shop, but after awhile you forget those people. You type the letters right the hell off your keyboard.
|(Goodbye A, S, and E) (the N and L are gone too)|
Or you grunt at them.
I'm kinda manic when I shut down for the day. I walk out of my office in a daze as if I have been holed up in a cave. There I go speaking metaphorically.
It does feel like emerging from a cave when you finish writing a book.
I stumble out into the sunlight, blinking my eyes. Huh. It's spring. Who knew?
I don't know what to do with myself.
Cleaning is usually number one on the agenda. When you spend nine or ten months writing a book, you tend to let household chores go. Now it's time to sweep up the dust tumbleweeds in the living room and tackle the science experiments brewing in the bathrooms.
I always think I should celebrate. Throw a party. Or at the very least, flop out in the hammock and read a book. Instead, I assign myself projects like Paint the Office or Create a Rock Garden.
I'm not sure exactly why I do this.
Yesterday I sat in my garden all day pulling up weeds and scattering mulch. There was something very zen-like about it.
I was not thinking about the book I had just finished, the book that had pretty much consumed me for months. I wasn't thinking about how this possible mess of a Thing is now in the hands of my trusted first readers, how what they say about this Thing will determine how I spend the next few months. I wasn't thinking about publication or the fact that the last book I finished is still bouncing around with editors or more likely, sitting in editorial inboxes, untouched and unread. I wasn't thinking about why I Do This when there is no guarantee that anything I write will show up on a library or bookstore shelf ever again. I wasn't think about next books or speaking engagements or book signings or book festivals or teaching writing workshops.
Instead I was squatting in dirt chasing the shade around my garden. I had mud under my fingernails and bugs crawling in my hair.
My mind was blissfully empty and I didn't even realize what I'd accomplished until I stood up and stumbled out of the garden and looked.