He is not the boss of me
Miss Mollymoo, Age Two

Where is Anne Lamott when you need a good pep talk?

Last year at this time I was zooming through what I hoped would turn out to be My First Novel. The goal was 50,000 words by November 30. I ended up somewhere around 70,000. I also wrote "The End" at what was actually the end. It felt pretty amazing. 

Of course it wasn't a GOOD novel, or even really a NOVEL, but it was a start and I was proud of it and I didn't hate it or get tired of it and I've been working on it all year long. I was halfway through the third draft sometime in mid-October when I decided: Oh God, this is terrible, this is a very bad idea. Confidential to my writing group: it was possibly a very bad time to start a writing group. 

It was, as many first novels probably are, a fictionalization of a personal experience. An extreme fictionalization, I hasten to add. It really WASN'T a memoir with different names, or even therapy disguised as a YA novel. But I started to think I wasn't cool enough, smart enough, edgy enough, brave enough, interesting enough to pull it off. And while my kernel of an idea was, I think, a decent premise for a YA novel, I didn't know how to put my characters at risk, or have them do things I didn't want them to do, or become unlikeable... and really that's just so ME, to not want to get in TROUBLE. 

And then you look at what's on the YA shelves and you think (if you are me): oh dear. I do not want nor do I have any business writing about Issues. Or vampires, for that matter. 

So it's not just my parenting I feel doubtful about lately. And I look at this heap of words in a word processing program I bought especially for The Novel, and I tell myself that it's not so bad, this is the most I've ever worked on one project, the longest I've stuck with something and gee I sure have learned a lot in the process. It's okay to move onto something else. Shouldn't I be writing middle grade stuff? That's more me. That's more my speed. Right? Maybe? I'll think of something else. Then I realize I can't think of something else. And if I do, I'll probably just do the same thing to the something else that I've done to this project: give up. 

Oh, what depressing drivel from someone who ate cookie dough for dinner!

I think, if I were able to peel away this ridiculous Generalized Crisis of Confidence I'm currently undergoing or whatever, that I would still like to work on this "novel". Because it's kind of fun, because it's an escape, because sometimes I think I pull a good line out of nowhere, because sometimes I think not everyone wants to read about Issues, maybe they just want to read about themselves. 

But right now I am tired and anxious. I get to talk to my husband once a week if I'm lucky. My kids are awesome, but one of them waits until an hour past bedtime to go poo and the other doesn't nap. I've stopped caring about what I eat (obvs) and I have rotting pumpkins on my stoop and I don't think I'm going to run tonight because it's almost nine and I'm beat and Molly is STILL singing to herself in her crib. I can't go hang out in the garage with earphones and the noisiest treadmill on earth if the baby monitor is continually flashing because Molly is on the eightieth verse of 'Wheels On The Bus'. 

Writing feels... like another thing I'm behind on. 

I loved NaNoWriMo because I HAD to pull it out. I HAD to keep going or ELSE. And sure, it was horrible and ridiculous and nonsensical, but I kept making things happen. That feels like the biggest difference for me right now: I feel completely out of things that happen. 

Oh you guys I have about ten million more things I could say about this writing thing, but I fear it would get REALLY out of control, you know, all philoSOPHical-like and no one wants that and only half of you are interested in writing-as-a-thing-you-do anyway and did I tell you I ate COOKIE DOUGH for dinner? That's something you can't wait to do when you're a grown up, but when you actually DO IT as a grown up it means someone should probably arrange the intervention. 

So maybe I will end this dreary little post with a note that Jack was much nicer to me today and I to him. God bless preschool and sisters who have the afternoon off and choose to spend it hanging out with you and your little monsters. God also bless the fabulous women who comment on my blog because SERIOUSLY, I really appreciated your not-advice-giving super-kind made-me-feel-so-much-better words. And my husband just instant messaged me tonight asking me (RHETORICALLY) if I might one day want to move to the city he is currently holed up in (RHETORICALLY) because he could see himself working for the company in this locale (RHETORICALLY) and you know how I'm always talking about how I am married to Seattle, they will have to crowbar my body off the Space Needle before I move? Well GOSH if I'm not sitting here thinking about moving (RHETORICALLY) to where Phillip is currently and what that could possibly be like. (RHETORICALLY). (OMG GO TO BED ALREADY.)

Comments

Sarah

I wonder if it's seasonal. I'm feeling a bit burnt out on my life too. Maybe it's life with busy husbands, little kids, and our own desire to do something other than wipe someone else's butt. Or maybe I have no idea what I'm talking about (but at least I'm sympathetic).

Gregaria

Since your novel is starting to feel like a chore, maybe you should put it aside and do something else. Also, maybe instead of deciding you're going to write a complete novel, you could just decide to write 15 minutes a day. In other words, change your goal so you won't feel behind on it. Just a thought.

Kimiko

I was a writer, once. When people push me to start writing again, and I look at the dirty carpet & the squabbling kids & the ridiculous ironing pile & the stupid rotting pumpkins sitting on MY porch (that a squirrel shredded AGAIN just this morning), I realize that these people have no idea what it's like to be a mother of 2 young kids. (Or, if they do, and they still pull it off, I don't want to know.) I hope writing happens again someday for me. I think it's great that you've written anything at all, and I'll bet it's a ton better than you think.

ccr in MA

In life as in writing, take it bird by bird. Everyone goes through down periods, when Nothing goes right (I started to type "write"!). Please don't be too hard on yourself. We're all just trying to get through.

Life of a Doctor's Wife

Oh my gosh the writing thing... I feel that way all the time, like "what do I possibly have to offer?" And yet, I can't NOT write, it's impossible.

But look at you Maggie, with an honest-to-goodness NOVEL that just needs whipping into shape... That's a feat all by itself. And you do have something to offer, I know that just from reading your blog and the few pieces of fiction you've shared!

I've worked on several books with a writer, and he always gets so SICK of them well before they're done. Thinks they are horrible. Is ready to move on to the next thing. And then they are best sellers. So maybe that's just the curse of the writer.

Christiana

What's the saying? You are your own harshest critic. (Or something like that)I haven't written a word of fiction since the baby was born and I really want to get some motivation - a deadline, a goal, whatever, but even that seems like too much work right now (and now there are holidays. And my husband is working even longer hours than before)

And have I mentioned that I actually WANTED to eat cookie dough for lunch the other day, but we were out so I couldn't? Don't feel bad. I'm jealous that you had some available.

Sarahd

Well, I've never written a novel (like you have!) but it seems like it might be a good time to put out feelers about (gulp!) publication? Because then you get an editor and deadlines, etc. which would be incredibly motivating, I think. Also, if nothing pans out you'd basically be FORCED to move on to a new project, right? Tell me to shut up if the idea is giving you a panic attack!

HereWeGoAJen

Hmm, which city? If it is near me, I recommend it.

Sometimes I eat cookies for breakfast and then call my mom to tell her.

Swistle

My NaNoWriMo novel was the worst: a married middle-aged-mother fantasy. Oh yes, it was.

Christina

I'm sitting here in week 3 (?) of Nano, barely slogging along, scraping out the bare minimum to keep the chart saying "at this rate you will finish on Nov. 30" and I think you are some kind of amazing for taking your novel all the way to 70,000. Also, for the record, I currently hate my novel. I'm telling myself this is now a "writing exercise" and I can write an actual GOOD novel later, like in January. :) (I live in a fantasy world wherein I suddenly get a Very Good Idea in January). So, um, all this to say... I understand. And I think you've already accomplished quite a lot.

Lindsay

Oh, Maggie... I feel you. And for you. Actually, I need to email you. I'll do that tonight or tomorrow. Maybe it'll make you feel better.

Kelly L

The difference between you and I, while we both are apparently having this major meltdown of self doubt re: writing, is that you are actually DOING something and WRITING something while I am sitting here meebling and not knowing where to begin.

I'd get so much further if I'd just open a freaking Word document and start typing and see what comes out.

But, I'm going to analyze it to death in my brain first, and the outcome will be very much the same as it has been: I get nowhere.

Also: quit self-doubting yourself. I very much enjoy your writing and would be very interested to read something fictiony from you as well.

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