Earlier this month, I finished the draft of my book that I began working on nearly four years ago. What began in 2013 as a kind of memoir of being an artist with a day job morphed over time to be my own creative manifesto about how to make a living and build a life as an artist The process of writing started off feeling kind of glamorous. I was going to write a BOOK! A real live book of my own.
You may have guessed--that shiny novelty quickly faded into the reality of picking up the pen again and again and again. This process was long, thrilling, tiring, hopeful, frustrating, and in the end, unlike any other experience I have ever had. I know I will go back and do more editing, finding places to tighten up and to elaborate on, but for now, I am trying to savor the pride I feel at actually having finished what I set out to do.
It is strange to write a book that no one is waiting for. Many authors have a deadline from their agent or publisher, a sign that someone, somewhere, is waiting to read the words they write. This is to say nothing of the millions of readers that wait anxiously for the release of a book, rush to purchase it when it arrives at the bookstore, and take it home to enjoy with a cup of tea.
But no one is waiting for my book. Well, that's not entirely true. I was waiting and working for it the whole time, and I believe that the book itself was also waiting to be brought into the world. Books are born into the world, aren't they? Still, sitting down to pour the book out onto paper often felt a bit pointless. Who would mind a bit if I just stopped? Or walked away? Who would notice?
There's a million advantages to having the world wait with bated breath on a creative project you are birthing. But there is also a big advantage to making that trek solo with out fireworks and fanfare at the end. Sure, no one is waiting to praise the book, to purchase it, to dive into what you have made, but there is also no one to tell you your style is wrong. No one to criticize your turn of phrase. No one to tell you that you can't hand draw your own illustrations. You are free to express yourself precisely how you want. My seven year old self, who wrote and illustrated her own books before binding them together with colored yarn got to play again. With no oversight or interference from an adult.
I am starting to look for an agent and eventually a publisher. These folks will let me know what edits they think will be necessary to my words, to my style, to the project as a whole. And that's ok. But first, I wanted to get the book out just the way I wanted to. First things first.
Oh, and one of the best (and most unexpected) parts about finishing the book? I feel lighter. A lot lighter. This book had been renting space in my brain for nearly four years, and while I loved working on it, I had to say "no" to a lot of other ideas or creative whims I had during that time.
But when I finished this draft? The next day, I had a list of creative risks I want to take, ideas I want to flesh out, and adventures I want to pursue. I didn't even try to brainstorm these new ideas, it's as if the space left by the book became a vacuum, pulling in any and all ideas I have had on the back burner for the last few years into my brain, rushing in all at once. I cleared out creative brain space and creative brain space always wants to be filled.
The weirdest part is, I not only have ideas that I've wanted to do for a long time, like write and make a short film, but I am now getting really excited about taking creative risks that I can hardly wait to take that I never knew I even wanted to take.
Stand up comedy? Yup.
Pottery? Can't wait to try it.
Writing a suspense novel? Let's try it.
So keep writing. Or reading. Or rehearsing. Keep going when you think you can't. See your project through and then brace yourself for the joy of finishing what you started out to do and making way for what might be next.
I'm never been a big fan of sweeping or scrubbing, but creative cleaning is something I can get behind.
How about you? Do you have a creative project renting space in your brain? What are you excited to pursue once it's cleared out?