Once upon a time, I got a cat.
Don’t hit the back button just yet – this has to do with writing, I swear.
A few years back, I was a single gal, living in my very own apartment, feeling all smart and independent and adult-like. And while I felt I wasn’t around enough to take care of a dog, I did miss having pets, and I thought I would get a cat to keep me company when I was sitting around watch House Hunters marathons. (Preferably House Hunters: International. I mean, come on.)
Lo and behold, a girl I work with posts about a cat she found who needs a home. Because I am both impatient and impulsive, I snatch that kitty right up.
“Don’t do it,” my mom tells me. “It’s not good for your asthma or allergies.”
“Don’t do it,” says my sister and my boyfriend. “You need to make sure you’re really ready for a pet first.”
I’m allergic to cats.
And they’re hard on my asthma.
And I wasn’t quite ready for the responsibility of a pet.
I had people try to tell me these things, but I wasn’t willing to listen. I couldn’t hear them. I wanted to hit the fast forward the button, and nothin’ but experience would teach me. After a week, I realized the situation wasn’t good for me OR the cat and placed him a loving home where he’s very happy.
Here’s the part where I bring it back to writing.
When I got back into the swing of things in fall of 2011, I had Plans. Epic Plans. I was going to rewrite my YA urban fantasy that had once been repped, snag a new agent with my polished-up words and get back on track to being published. The Man told me to take my time, to think through my revisions, to make sure there was water in the pool before I threw myself off the high dive.
I didn’t. I threw together the revisions as quickly as possible and started entering contests and querying. I threw together another set of revisions before I had even really let the first set breathe. I could hardly sit STILL long enough to wait on crit responses or query responses.
Part of this is because I’m still an impatient person, but, more than that, I felt this urgency in my chest. I felt like a clock was ticking.
It was very similar to a biological clock. Only instead of human babies, it was book babies. I had intended to be published YEARS and YEARS ago, and I hadn’t yet succeeded. I just needed to get it done, get it out there, because I was BEHIND. I was stuck while EVERYONE around me was hitting the goals I had set out to achieve: agents, publications, etcs. Every year that passed was just another year that I had failed to get ahead in the author-ing game, to get a book out there on the market (where it would, of course, dazzle all readers).
Write. TICK TOCK. Revise. TICK TOCK. Write. TICK TOCK. Revise. TICK – GODDAMNIT WHY ISN’T THIS FINISHED YET? I’M BEHIND!
I’ve been doing this for over a year now. Feeling behind. Feeling like for every step I take toward the Ultimate Publishing Dream, I take three steps back. My writing has suffered for it. That poor YA book has been ravaged by my urgency to try and get it into publishing shape.
Not “the best shape for it” or “the best book it can possibly be” – just ANY shape so long as I can throw it out there and hit that “published” checkmark.
I am lucky to have patient people around me – people like my husband who wait until I’m ready listen and remind me that there’s no clock. I’m not behind anything or anyone. There’s just me and the stories and words I love.
Recently, I’ve slowed down a bit. I’ve let myself have the breathing space to play with and muck around in multiple story ideas as it suits me. And it’s been fun.
Remember that? Writing=fun? I think it’s easy to forget sometimes – or, at least, it’s easy for me to forget. And I have to keep having these moments where I learn it all over again. Where I sit myself down, look at myself in the mirror and go, “Stop it.”
Stop flailing, Becks. Stop trying to scrabble up a mountain like if you just throw yourself around hard enough, you’ll magically wake up at the top of it. Stop even looking at that fucking mountain. That fucking mountain is in your imagination. Stop bruising your body and your hands trying to fight your way ahead. Ahead of who, exactly? Or what? Look around, Becks. It’s Fight Club, and you’re your own Tyler Durden. Knock that shit off.
The likelihood that this message – to be patient, to write for fun because there’s no clock – will stick is, honestly, not high. 🙂 We all have our flaws that we try to overcome, and impatience is one of mine. But I’m putting this down on here so, if and when I find myself with bloody fingernails and a panicked heart, I can come back here. Reread this. And remember.
Breathe. Think about the cat. And stop looking at that fucking mountain.