Day 87 and Some Lessons Learned

I didn’t sleep very well last night. I was too excited — fantasies of photocopiers, printing, and glorious pink stickies kept me awake.

A couple of weeks ago I finished Draft -1 of my first novel, ever. Last night (OK this morning, I had to change just one more thing …) I finished preparing Draft 0 to be printed. I have grand plans to share paper versions with my voluntolds, those who have promised to provide me feedback to help get me to Draft 1.

My game plan was this:
1) wake up at 06:00, snooze only once
1.5) make a single-small-tiny-change (2 hours later …)
2) print copies
3) teleport them to each of my victims

Sounds bulletproof, right? I thought so too, but when I contacted the print centre I learned I would have to wait 24 hours. Unacceptable, Donna! I promised my Number One Fan that by the time he returns from his business trip, he would have his very own copy to pour over.

Lesson 0: never disappoint your fans. Especially if your Number One Fan is your husband/wife/partner/pet.
So I prayed (read: pleaded) with the Print&Copy gods (her name was Tammy) and they granted me my wish. The print job has been expedited and it will be done at 4pm today. Huzzah!

My plan is back on track, in motion, and the countdown has begun. Come 3:55pm, I will race to the store, pick up the copies, package them, and send them on their merry way.

What to do with myself until then?

Don’t get me wrong, I have lots to do (least of which is write two more novels). But I’ve been working at such a micro scale toward a single goal for so long that I find myself drinking yet another mug of coffee, biding my time in a coffee shop.

Then it occurs to me. Why wait at all? Why not just share an electronic copy now, so that I can check that box and stop twitching, and then follow up with a paper version? It’s not as though my guinea pig readers will begin reading right away. I can still give them that ‘fresh off the press’ experience that I’ve agonized over for weeks, now.

Which brings me to 10 minutes ago. 10 minutes ago I shared Draft 0 (electronically, of course) with a whopping eight people.

Which brings me to right now. What next? Well, I guess I’ll start book two! But before I get too far ahead of myself I want to impart a few lessons I’ve learned that will help me with books 2 through n.

Lessons Learned

Many say that being a writer is like ‘being god’ where ‘god’ is omnipotent and it’s religion is deterministic. After having struggled with decisions like what so-and-so says next, and who something-or-other should fall in love with, I can agree with that understanding of being a writer.

But I’ll tell you what, it’s tough being a responsible, omnipotent god. You can’t just kill the characters you create or put them in unbearably tough spots, willy nilly. When you do, you become a tyrannical, omnipotent god.

Given that the people I want to delight most with these books are my niece and nephew, I don’t think I want to be that second type of god (… or do I?).

First Lesson: for every story you write, decide what type of god you want to be and stick to it.

This lesson isn’t meant to be restrictive, rather, is meant to provide some guidelines for consistency and contextualized emotional correctness (Sally Kohn TED Talk, I recommend you watch it).

No one is going to stop you from being multiple gods in a single story, and no one is saying that you need to be the same god for every single thing you write. But for me and this story, I need to be a god that I’m proud being because of who I’m creating it for.

Second Lesson: perfection is impossible and balance is key.

Life, death, chapter length, dialogue-description-action, joy, tragedy, voice … all of it matters.

You’re probably thinking ‘Duh! Of course balance is key, Donna’. Everyone (maybe?) knows that a writer tries to strike the right chord with their audience.

But balance is key well before you’re ‘done’. It matters when you’re in the thick of it, thinking about the next word-sentence-paragraph. To get yourself from one sentence to the next, consider this: perfection is impossible and balance is key.

Reminding myself that ‘perfection is impossible’ removed roadblocks; reminding myself that balance is key helped me refine my decisions. When you’re patient with yourself and allow yourself time to look at what you’re doing holistically, then you’ll find it easier to reach a finish line (lesson 2.5: there are many, many, many finish lines).

Third Lesson: you don’t know until you do it.

Sharing something you’ve created is risky business. You don’t know how difficult/good/revolutionary/anticlimactic it can be or feel, until after you’ve done it. So do it and do it often.
Don’t be shy about talking about sharing because talking about it will force you into doing it, at some point. If vulnerability and shame are the birthplace of creativity and innovation (Brené Brown’s TEDx Talk, also highly recommended), then fear and self doubt are the parents of decay and stagnation.