A friend of mine used to say that we go through major life transitions every seven years. I think he based this theory on the fact that the human body totally regenerates its own skin in that same time frame (or so I have read on the internet). I don’t know if that’s true, or if we are constantly in transition and we only notice it every so often, but:
Around this time seven years ago, I signed my first book contract. And I’ve just wrapped up the major editorial work on my fifth novel. I definitely feel like something is winding down, that this period of time that began with selling Story of a Girl is ending with finishing The Lucy Variations.
My contracts are basically fulfilled. I haven’t signed on to anything else, and I don’t know when I will, or what it will be. I feel the need to reboot my writing life, knowing what I know now about the work and myself and life and the business. I’ve been operating for awhile from a place of fatigue and obligation and momentum. We all do, from time to time, but it’s not a viable long-term situation.
I’m taking the next six months or so to pause the momentum, and re-envision my writing life and the material that I deal with in it. I’m not stopping writing, I’m not going away from the blog or twitter or the podcast. It’s not that. It’s something more internal and personal. I know I’ve written about it here before, many times, but finally, finally, I have the time to actually do it. This makes me happy.
Writer friends who have been at this awhile: Have you ever made an internal or external decision to make a semi-major to major change in focus, or how you work, or why you work? I’d love to hear about it.
The creative challenges Siobhan Vivian faced while writing her fourth novel, The List, in her words, nearly broke her. In this episode, Sara and Siobhan talk about risk-taking, self-doubt, and pushing ourselves to try to write the book we think we can’t.
I really enjoyed my conversation with Siobhan, as I think about this issue of creative risk-taking a lot. Having just finished my own “this may kill me” project, I so related her experience. Whatever stage your writing life, I think you will, too. But, this may be especially relevant to those of you who have been doing this writing career thing for awhile. Thank you, Siobhan, for being so open!
Some show notes:
As always, thank you for listening. If you enjoy the show, tell a friend and/or leave a rating at the iTunes store. You can share a direct link to the podcast here. Feedback is always welcome in the comments, via email, or through twitter.
(And because you may be wondering – Siobhan’s name is pronounced “shehVON”.)
No, this is not a post about language in YA fiction. “Foul matter” is the term, in the biz, for materials like manuscripts, galleys, proofs, etc., that are no longer relevant to the book-making process and get returned to the publisher by the printer. Also, I use it to refer to the piles of papers, notebooks, backs of envelopes, index cards, and Post-Its that were part of my project once upon a time but now have little to no meaning, because the book has changed so much from that first vision.
Here’s a pile of stuff related to The Lucy Variations that I tossed into the recycling bin this this morning:
Sometimes writers save this stuff for “posterity”. I have enjoyed going to special collections and looking at drafts and manuscripts of other authors. And I know there’s a special collection of YA stuff at a college in Florida. I sent some Story of a Girl material, like first pass pages, there a few years ago. But generally, my drafts make me feel so completely exposed, I can’t imagine anyone but my editor and a few trusted friends reading them without feeling like shortly there will be a knock on the door and I’ll be arrested for impersonating a writer. And I’m not sure about the idea of predicting that work will be lasting enough to warrant a record.
Some writers save it for themselves. It’s like keeping baby pictures or something, I guess. But for me, the original material bears so little resemblance to the finished work that it would be more like keeping the pictures of old boyfriends that caused lots of pain. Or, I don’t know, that’s not quite it. I guess, bottom line, it’s about letting go of what I thought the book would be, and accepting what it is.
(I do keep the computer files of past drafts, so I suppose I am keeping a record somehow. Occasionally I pull up excerpts from old drafts to use in a workshop revision talk.)
Writers: What do you do with the paper–if you use paper–related to your process?
Author Emily Wing Smith was hit by a car when she was 12, and that still affects her writing process today. Sara and Emily chat about writing with physical challenges, and how to deal with the associated discouragement.
Tech notes: There was a problem with the podcast feed that meant only the three most recent episodes were showing up in the feed and therefore iTunes. I’ve fixed the feed, but it will take a few days for it to update with every episode (and my new pretty icon!), so if you’re having trouble finding the first few eps, you can always click the This Creative Life icon on the right hand side of my blog’s page.
For podcast feedback, requests, pitches, etc., you can leave a comment here, or email.
Thanks for listening!
Guy Raz’s interview with John Mayer over the weekend was so good. I’ve only listened to the 14-minute version that aired, but will be listening to the extended interview as soon as I can. Never mind if you like Mayer’s music, or him as a person, or anything. Just listen. Really, really good stuff about art and fame and humility and being empty and doing things for the wrong reasons, and how to fix that.
Siobhan Vivian’s YA novel The List. It’s a great book, and probably every teen girl (and woman who still dabbles in ranking herself and others) would do well to read it. Impressive to me, as a writer, was Vivian’s courage in tackling a super challenging narrative structure and pulling it off well. I’m going to have her on This Creative Life soon to talk about risk-taking in our work! Because it’s scary, you know, to try something new when no one would fault you for sticking to your comfort zone.
The ABC Family show Switched at Birth. I’ve been binging via Netflix. It’s not perfect by any stretch, but I love shows that feature teen characters who are not a) turning into other types of creatures at night, b) perpetuating plastic Disney/Nickelodeon oversexualized-in-a-weird-brightly-color
How about you? What have you discovered lately in books or TV or music or whatever?
Thank you for your notes and tweets of encouragement these last couple of weeks! I turned in my draft. Then I went away and thought and rested and planned for awhile. Now I’m back, aaand so is my draft. Like a homing pigeon. So I’ve got a bit more to do before calling it done, but it’s getting close. As much as I love for things to go cooperatively along with my dream schedule, writing a novel is just one of those things that can’t be (or shouldn’t be) rushed. But it tries my patience. Oh it does. I’m sure every writer can relate to the feeling of itching to start the Next Thing but it not being time for that quite yet.
I’ve needed this week off and away, and consequently there is no 5/15 episode of This Creative Life. It will be back June 1, and on its 1st & 15th schedule (on or about).
I neglected to mention the person responsible for my lovely new site design – Megan Keatley, of Health-Bent. That’s a real-food cooking blog that I love, and I’ve always thought it looked cool. Then I learned: the woman not only cooks, she designs! Or, she did, though she’s focusing now on the cooking part, i.e. getting a cookbook together, which is fine with me.
Have a terrific weekend, all.
That’s how long I have left in this little break before getting back to my work. Depending how you read this blog, you may or may not notice that my web site has an all new design. I’m so happy with the crisp cleanliness of it, and having a new virtual environment. There are some little things I’ll be tweaking in the coming weeks to make sure it looks and works right, but basically I have entered the modern age.
I’m tired. Revision is like this:
You look at it awhile from a safe distance, in the abstract. “One day, and one day soon, I shall work on that.”
Then you start. “I will never finish this.”
*Crying break* / “I will never finish this” / *crying break* / “I can’t do it” / *crying break* / “Oh god why”
Then, one day, you turn a corner. “I am going to finish this!”
After that, there may be setbacks. “How could I have thought I was going to finish this?” (Bookmarked at the moment.)
Then, you look up one day, and you’re done. “I can’t believe it. I seriously. Can’t believe it.”
Then you take a break and pretend your work is finished, before it comes back to you, like a homing pigeon, and you go through the whole process again. Maybe several-ish times.
And when I say “you”, I mean “I”.
You asked, Sara answered. Thoughts on knowing when a book is finished, “legitimate distractions”, and writing about God.
You can now subscribe though iTunes. If you like the podcast, feel free to leave a rating or review in the iTunes directory. Somehow, episode 1 has disappeared. Woe. I will try to fix it soon, but you can still get to it by going to the ‘podcast’ tag through my site – that will give you links to every episode.
And now I must AWAY TO MY CAVE. Thanks for your great questions. I hope to do an episode like this a few times a year, so save up some q’s for next time. Happy May Day – see you back here when my draft is in!
…is the title of a new book from Joelle Anthony, and based on the trailer, it looks awesome. I’m an agent-mate of Joelle’s and am joining a bunch of other bloggers in posting this today. Enjoy! (Gotta say, I love the cover.) The Right & The Real officially publishes on April 26th. Ask for it at your local book store!
Mark Pett and Sara talk about perfectionism, learning to let go, and self-management, among other things.
A page from Mark’s sketch/idea book
The Boy & The Airplane coming from Simon & Schuster in 2013
In my efforts to get This Creative Life listed in the iTunes directory, I re-created the feed. I’m happy to report this was successful, though it won’t show up in the directory for a few days. If you subscribed previously and want to receive new episodes in iTunes, you may need to re-subscribe with the new feed.
All you need to do is either: go to this url: http://feeds.feedburner.com/ThisCreative
Podcast feedback, suggestions, pitches, etc. go here. Also, if you’ve got a creative process question, send it in! A future episode will be all listener Q&A, so throw me your Q’s. Tell a friend!