A glorious morning! And I just spent part of it writing outside.
I want to talk about The Metamorphosis of a Writer. And when I'm finished, I'd love to know where YOU are.
We start as caterpillars, creeping along. The whole writing thing is new--or it's old but rediscovered. We dabble. We sneak in spare minutes here and there.
But mostly, it's creeping. We're tentative; we're not sure we can actually FINISH a novel. We're jittery if friends ask us what we spent Friday night doing. We sometimes allows weeks or (gasp!) months pass before sneaking back to our "little project."
Then we finish the novel. Wow! And we realize this is something we CAN do. Whether we'll take this further remains to be seen. Because at this point we 1) stop or 2) stall or 3) enter metamorphosis.
The metamorphosis process is where most of us stay for a very long time. For each, the journey is different. As we progress, the changes become more intense, more obvious. Our goal is always those beautiful wings.
Unlike a real chrysalis, our writerly metamorphosis usually takes years.
As we get closer to breaking out of the cocoon, the process often becomes more painful. The "near misses" drive us nuts. The ever-closer, ever-stronger, ever-better, and still-not-quite-making-it can be...well, exhausting.
Getting an agent isn't the final and sudden end to the metamorphosis process, either. It's a hurdle overcome, for sure. Our beady little eyes are peaking from within the widening crack. And selling the book lets our wee heads emerge a bit more. But there's more growing-stretching-changing that occurs as we work, for the first time, with an editor.
Finally taking wing doesn't mean we stop growing, either. Have you ever watched how voraciously a butterfly drinks nectar from a garden of flowers? It's like a constant feeding frenzy. No lazy, look-at-my-gorgeous-wings for these creatures. If they want to continue their flight, they need to work. Hard.
And so it is for the writer.
Saddest of all? When writers shrivel and die inside their cocoons, long before their metamorphosis has a chance to progress to completion.
I actually wrote my Very First Novel in six months. Yes, it sucked, but that's beside the point. I thought I had proven to the world--or at least to myself--that I could Write A Novel In Six Months.
Feisty little caterpillar, indeed.
Then, having realized that Novel #1 was a travesty, I began Novel #2. Lo and behold, I was still a caterpillar.
It took me more than twice as long to finish the thing. Huge chunks of not-writing time slowed down the process and made it look like I really wasn't writing a novel, after all. Creeping, creeping, creeping. And while the story itself was certainly stronger than the first one, my writing still had a long way to go.
A long, long, long way.
Somewhere along that long way, while querying the second novel and writing a third, my metamorphosis began. By the time I'd started my fourth novel, the process was well underway. The fifth, like the fourth, was drafted in three months and now awaits surgery. I'm now writing my sixth and revising my fourth.
(I sounded like Beethoven just then.)
My little beady eyes aren't peeking out yet. But I'm in an INTENSE season of metamorphosis, to the point where writing is a focal point in my life. It's not a "little project" or a "hobby" or "something I work on after everything else is done." Yes, the "everything else" HAS to be done (alas! alas!), but the writing is very high on my priority list.
Dang, I'm working hard. No one's MAKING me do it, and I love it. But if this were a physical cocoon, I'd have broken a major sweat by now.
My perfect dream life? Me, a little cottage by the sea, and my stories. And maybe Mr. A, too.
Your turn. Think about your journey. Are you a caterpillar? In the midst of a long metamorphosis? Finally taking wing and gorging on nectar (a.k.a. hard work) to keep flying?