It is well with my (writer's) soul
Okay y’all today I’m going to get real. I’m talking baring my soul kind of honesty today. Everyone always talks about how much becoming a parent will change your life. We all know that. We’ve lived it. And those changes to our lives vary as widely as our lifestyles. But there are always surprises. I’m not sure what all your surprises were, and I don’t really have time or room to hit on all of mine, but I wanted to touch on some of the more profound surprises. First a little backstory – as you’ve probably gleaned from some of my previous blogs, the Professor and I had a long road to become parents which included lots of fertility treatments, some failed adoptions and more tears than either of us were prepared for. So there’s that aspect of my life. And then there is my writing. I have had my share of successes in this business. I’ve written for two different publishers, made some money, won some prestigious awards and been praised in Publisher’s Weekly, the Chicago Tribune and Booklist. But I have had my share (more than my share, if you ask me!) of defeats as well.
I lost my contract within weeks of becoming a mother and most would see this as a blessing, in disguise, of course. That’s what everyone always says, isn’t it? “Oh, you can’t see it now, but this is actually for the best.” Um, for whom, exactly? Yes, it was nice to not have to be on deadline while I was learning the ropes of motherhood and fielding some significant issues with our new kiddos. The stress was unbelievable. The girls weren’t free and clear, the parental rights hearing was scheduled, but we had months to wait for that to happen and then many more obstacles to clear before the adoption was all finalized. in those dark early days I was faced with my greatest fears…I had prayed for so long to become a mother, but I hadn’t realized I’d have to trade my career to achieve it. I felt punished and frankly very lost. I floundered. A lot.
My friends (mostly my writer buds) fielded insane calls and emails from me where I spouted craziness and panic and people would tell me to relax, enjoy the time off, the industry wasn’t going anywhere, I had plenty of time. But I’d been a full-time writer for the bulk of my adult life. I’d only been a mother for such a small amount of time and well bonding isn’t necessarily instant when you’re dealing with kids that you may or may not get to keep. As much as I loved them instantly and wanted, with my every breath, to be able to keep them, that certainty wasn’t there and I know (thought I tried not to) I held myself back just a little. Self preservation. I’d been hurt. A lot and well, I was terrified.
But back to the writing….the worst part was that I felt not only that I had lost my actual career, but I had lost my writer’s soul. The voices had gone quiet. Part of this I know is because (and here’s one of those surprises I mentioned) I am a dyed-in-the-wool introvert and I love to be alone. I love quiet. Well, y’all know kids are anything but quiet. They make noise ALL THE TIME. My silence, my quiet, my sanity was shattered. I had no refuge, no way to refill my well because I was surrounded by noise all the time. It was a huge adjustment and I won’t lie, I still miss it, but I know how to deal with it now and I get my time which helps.
Okay so no voices in my head (those of you who aren’t writers, it’s okay, I’m not crazy, they aren’t scary-I-need-medication voices, just harmless imaginary character voices ) In any case, at some point I started working again, just kind of going through the motions. I had completed a rough draft at some point before the girls and was ready to start revising the whole thing. Poor Emily heard more than anyone should my incessant whining of how I’d forgotten how to write, the characters weren’t working, the writing was flat, etc. I worked and I worked and it seemed every word I added or every word I cut was painful.
Of course it didn’t help matters that I’d decided to work on the most challenging book of my career, a big historical romantic suspense full of a large cast of characters, multiple viewpoints, lots of dead bodies and a heroine with a disability. (<– this book, btw, is The Secrets of Mia Danvers coming out in June!) Okay, so sometimes I’m not that bright.
Needless to say after an enormous amount of time and energy I finally finished that damn book and I’m waiting to hear from NYC on it. It took me forever and it doubled in size during revisions. But still through all of that, the entire process was excruciating, I don’t think I had any days in there that went well, where the words flowed or the characters whispered in my ears. So still I believed that somehow along the way I’d lost the magic, lost my writers gift.
And then last week something amazing happened. I started working on a new idea, something that just sort of sprang from my mind, something not quiet as plot-heavy and the ideas just started pouring out. The best part, the characters are talking. At night while I’m trying to sleep, during the day while I’m playing with the girls or we’re watching something on PBS. And at nap time I sit down at my laptop and write. It’s not easy, writing is never easy for me, but it’s working, and I feel at peace. (and this book is A Little Bit Wicked)
Maybe everyone was right, maybe this time away from deadlines has been just what I’ve needed to heal and grow and all that good stuff (though I’m still not convinced). But as my father always says, it is what it is and well the only thing to do now is move forward, keep writing and know that eventually I’ll find the right combination again and my career will start yet again.
**this blog was originally posted at the Peanut Butter on the Keyboard blog**