A guest post to motivate, encourage and inspire...
A Novel, in Fits and Starts
I got very drunk one night when I was in my mid-thirties. I was living in Berlin at the time with my husband and three children and had gone to a party with some crazy, artsy types, and slammed down too many glasses of Rhein-wine. When I got home, I had a weird, muse’y burst of inspiration and stayed up all night writing a corny, poorly-worded short story about my grandparents. It was terrible, but that wasn’t surprising; I wasn’t an author, had never written much of anything, and I knew that there was a lot more involved in creating a well-crafted story than a few boozey hours of typing. I was hungover the next day, reading over my lousy writing, and while it may have been an odd moment to decide what I wanted to be when I grew up, that’s what happened.
The rest should go something like this: I rewrote tirelessly, submitted the piece to a literary journal, and got it published. But that’s not what happened. Instead, I moved to Maryland, focused on raising my kids, taught high school English and worked on my story in fits and starts. Slowly, very slowly, over the course of the next seven years, I expanded it into a flawed novel.
And the story should then go like this: I worked, edited and revised until I got that flawed novel published. But that’s not what happened either. Instead, I moved to Manhattan, helped my kids settle into new schools, spent priceless time with my mother while she was dying of cancer, took another full-time job, read books, gained ten pounds and watched my face age. I wrote whenever I could.
I was starting to wonder if there was a point to sticking with it when a wonderful literary agent — a friend of a friend — allowed me to send her some of my writing. I sent her Chapter One. She asked for more, so I sent Chapter Two. And then she asked for the whole thing. I admit, I started to feel optimistic. Too soon, as it turned out: the agent said she liked my writing but wanted me to go back to square one, to write something new, to start all over again. Start all over again. The book had already taken me ten years.
So I buckled down and started over again. I guess the timing was finally right. My kids were older and more independent, my ability to laugh at life was well developed, and I found myself in the right frame of mind to focus on a brand new project.
I’m 50 years old and just sold my first book. Writing is hard. Motherhood is harder, and all-consuming. Career paths for many women are patchy, interrupted things that start and stop and start again between orthodontist appointments and real-life tragedies. If you can withstand the postponements and the detours and find fun in the writing itself, it is well worth keeping at it.
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