Shite Time – Finishing a Novel

Or, An Hour and a Half of Well-Being.

[Skip to the bottom for my recommendation!]

This time last week I finished writing the last chapter of the novel I’ve been working on over the last year and a half, Wishes Spent. I was pleased with the ending as I wrote it. To me it wrapped up, but not too tightly, everything that needed to be.

I was elated, I left my flat smiling basking in the lovely weather. An hour and a half later I felt down, just down. I immediately didn’t want to celebrate, talk about it, or anything.

                      “I got beaten by a sim.”

Recently I have been playing the Sims 4 – I made myself and made myself a writer. A pleasant wish fulfilment as I could make this guy do nothing but write until he passed out. I’d send him to sleep, get him up for breakfast and back to work – all on fast forward for me. He finishes a book and takes it out to the letterbox, puts it in and boom, it’s published.  

When he finished he would be “Happy” for four hours. Then back to normal. I kept saying “This guys mad, happy just for four hours, I’ll be buzzing for days.” I got beaten by a Sim. 

The thought of having spent almost two years working towards this one day, – most of my free time devoted to it, turning away from my studies in Japanese, ideas for poems and stories that came along – all for an hour and half of well being seemed like a very meagre pay out.

Well, I spent the weekend travelling to some different places, staring moodily out the window and listening to that song from Zootopia on repeat and started to regain some perspective on why I felt glum.

What kickstarted my thoughts was reading an excellent post by Laura Jane Williams  on her blog superlativelyrude.com about “Burnout.”

This post can be summarised, but you should read the whole thing, in a single quote:

“Finding work I love isn’t the problem – it’s the value I attach to it.”

In the post she talks about how doing the work she loved meant it occupied too high a place of importance. A place that sucked the life out of everything it had been artificially placed over, presumably in an attempt to keep itself up there.

Fortunately my experience has not been quite as drastic as hers but the concept is similar. She, for one thing, has actually got her book published whereas I am just about to start doing “that”.

I have entered, what I named as Shakira wailed in my ears, the Shite Time. I have left the comforting excitement of wrestling with sentences and characters and, like those characters, gone into twisting woods and strange societies I had not really been aware existed.

And I stepped into this without any hand-holds. All my other interests, had been sacrificed for the purpose of the book, and I had done little research into “what next” so that I was like a cartoon character that looks down and suddenly realises it isn’t on solid ground any more.

I managed to push myself into researching agents, getting feedback on the novel, and maintaining an online presence (a phrase which sounds credible on-screen, but try saying it to your friends and family and you’ll find yourself fighting bile in your throat). I forced myself to embrace the Shite Time and found in doing so that it made me climb out of my pool of self-pity. Writing this blog, fiddling with my website (www.jedenham.com) and researching interesting people – i.e. agents – showed me that this was not shite time – this was just time. I just had to remember that not only writing the novel could give me pleasure.  .

I had attached too much value to my novel and in doing so robbed myself of my other joys.

What I learned

  1. Make sure that you have some other pleasurable habits before you finish so you have something else to feel good about doing.
  2. Prepare as much as possible for the publishing stage before you need to.
  3. If you feel bad read other people’s experiences as soon as possible – search wordpress or start with superlativelyrude.com on Burnout.

 

p.s.

I guess every body’s experience of the time after their book is different. I assume that the character of each text affects people in various ways and that must include the time after.

Narration of writing experiences and suggestion of tips often seems to overlook this point – that the thing you are writing dictates the emotional and intellectual reactions you are going to have to it. Talking generally about “writing a novel” is, I suppose, always going to be inaccurate compared to “writing this novel”. So what is the benefit of asking for others’ advice? Read my post next Friday and I’ll ponder this a little more.

 

 

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