On Tuesday I finished working on the book I’ve been writing for the past ten months. I did a final check, I printed it out, I put it in an envelope and I posted it to my agent. She says she’s going to read it this weekend and let me know what she thinks. That gives me five days, at minimum, during which I don’t have to work on it.
I have neglected my family for this book. I’ve let my husband and kid go off and play without me. I’ve spent mornings during my holiday writing, when everyone else was at the beach. I’ve let the house get absolutely filthy, I’ve had an empty refrigerator for weeks, I’ve gone off on weekend-long research trips or writing marathons, I’ve turned down invitations from friends. I’ve hardly left the house. I’ve dreamed of the book, thought of the book constantly, stayed up late working on the book, got up early to start work again. For the last two weeks, during my last intense push to revise the huge manuscript into something readable, I’ve been popping ibuprofen every four hours and wearing a wrist brace, to stop me from suffering too much from typing-related repetitive strain injury.
One of the first things I did after posting the manuscript (after going for a little lie down) was to go out with a friend for dinner. We had a glass of champagne to celebrate my achievement, and then she told me about what she’s been doing. She has crazy six-month deadlines to finish up writing a big trilogy, and at the same time she’s going on a promotional tour for the first book, interacting with her growing army of fans, and doing copy edits for a different publisher. She hardly has time to eat or sleep or talk with her husband. She is constantly in the world of her trilogy. Whatever we were talking about, the conversation slid back to her characters, and the look on her face was priceless: the look of a woman in love.
I was wildly jealous of her. Not of her success, which is well-deserved; certainly not of her lack of sleep or social contact, which I’ve got plenty of myself, thank you very much.
I was jealous of the book-love.
For me, the crazy obsession takes a little bit of time to wear off. I send the book, and then I dwell on all the things I could have changed. I think about the characters and their story almost as much as when I was writing. But then the reality sinks in. It’s over. My love affair is done. It’s no longer just me and the book. It’s time for someone else to read the story, and judge it.
Don’t get me wrong; it’s incredible to send off a book and have it read. I await my agent’s judgement with fear and crazy anticipation. But there’s a wearing-off period when I feel sad that it’s over, that it’s not my entire life any more. It's time for me to fall out of love. I feel exhausted, inadequate, at a loose end, and really lonely.
Obsessively working on your novel is bad for your health, it’s bad for your social life, it’s bad for your family. It can’t be doing your sanity any favours. And it leads to a consumption of wine and chocolate which is truly disgusting by any civilised standards. But it is wonderful. Just wonderful.
I miss it.
Come back on Sunday, when Anna Louise Lucia will be posting.