Carleton University

Post-Partum Book-Blues?

Growing up, I was a theater kid. All of us theater people understand the post-production blues that come after the final curtain call, after striking the set, after the running-on-fumes-but-cannot-miss cast party. The next morning, I’d awaken—as all my fellow thespians would—to an empty canvas of time. Our jam-packed schedules that had deprived us of sleep and nutritious meals and QT with loved ones for months were now suddenly…wide open. Texas countryside open. No more excuses for that putting off that dental cleaning. There would be no reason not to vacuum our cars’ crumb-laden interiors. All the reasons that made Cheetos a viable pairing with pizza lost their validity. So, after a good cry and a look at some photos or a glowing review, we’d all pull up our big-girl socks and get on with regular life. Ho hum.

No one told me this is how I’d feel after launching a book.

By now, you’ve read my previous blog, A Year in the Life of a Book-to-Be, which gave you a snapshot of the chaos of my life as I prepared to publish CATCHER’S KEEPER…and that was after writing the thing. It’s a strange life cycle: a book lives inside your head for years, you get it down and toil over every word, and then you have to push and insist and fight to get it out there. And then…

I wrote the first draft of CATCHER’S KEEPER in only three months. It sounds cliché, but the story had to get out. I drafted scenes in my mind at the playground only to run home and pound it out onto the computer during episodes of Phineas and Ferb. Many nights, I would go to bed, wait for everyone to fall asleep, and then sneak down to my computer and write until 2 or 3 a.m. Sometimes my husband would return from putting the boys to bed only to find me frantically typing a scene, having left dirty dinner dishes scattered about the kitchen. The story could not wait.

During my twenties when I flailed about trying to find myself (as many twenty-somethings do—ever see Girls on HBO?), my brother gave me a book about Graduate School entitled “Getting What You Came For,” which discusses how much commitment is required in obtaining a PhD. And by commitment, I don’t mean time, but passion. A thing that cannot be measured.

As my brother went through his doctorate program, I learned of a phenomenon more common than you’d expect summed up in a single foreboding acronym: ABD “All But Dissertation.” It takes years to earn a PhD—sometimes over a decade—but if you fail to complete the dissertation, the culmination of your research and expertise on your very specific field of study, you fail to get your PhD. If doctorate candidates aren’t borderline obsessed with the topic of their dissertations, their chances of finishing and therefore obtaining their PhDs are seriously compromised. You have to not only want it, but put almost everything else aside in order to obtain it.

If I may digress for one gloating moment: I’m happy to report that my brother, Jim Davies, has long finished his dissertation and obtained his PhD. (He’s now a cognitive scientist and award-winning associate professor at Carleton University in Ottawa—as well as an accomplished author. You can pre-order his book RIVETED now!)

I’m not comparing my commitment to my novel to the dedication required to earn a PhD. But it’s true that if I weren’t borderline obsessed with my book, I may not have finished it. This book harnessed an immense amount of energy; just thinking about it gave me a rush of adrenaline. Had I not been borderline obsessed, I probably would’ve allowed those early rejections—and there were lots of them—to convince me it was worthless. I may not have bothered with the Amazon contest. I may not have self-published. And there would be one less book in the world.

But it is out in the world. (Hooray!) And, for a few days, I was relieved and thrilled about its release.

And then the blues kicked in. Which was so strange.

The thing is: It’s not over. It’s creating a whole new energy. People are reading it! Reviewing it! I’m working Twitter and Facebook like no tomorrow. Blog tours! Interviews with local newspapers! Online interview with NY Times bestselling author! Book signing and presentation at a local café! I already have five legit bookclub gigs in four different states (only one of which is a relative’s—ha!). There’s amazing stuff happening.

So why am I blue?

Recalling the life-cycles of my five babies (my five completed manuscripts), I realize I have a mini-blues episode each time I finish a first draft. I’m happiest when I’m actively writing—creating a story out of nothing. I look forward to the next scene with as much fervor as I used to anticipate 24 episodes. I play it out in my head, write it quickly, and read it the next day, reveling in its purity. Building from the scene before, laying a foundation for the next chapter, feeling a build lift me like a giant wave. This is the best way I can describe it. Although it may not sound familiar to other authors, this is my reality of writing.

Dorothy Parker once said, “I hate writing. I love having written.” Respectfully, Ms. Parker, I would have to disagree.

Revising is a chore. Launching is a roller-coaster. Promotion is stressful. Writing a story organically is the sweet spot, and I’ve realized that’s what’s been missing. Even when there’s so much left to do, I realized I needed to start a new project.
So I have.

What’s it about, you ask?

Oh, no. I’m way too superstitious to tell you that. You’ll just have to wait to read it.