“I’m looking forward to the next installment!” What greater compliment can a reviewer pay an author? I mean, I ask you! Feedback like that makes me want to chain myself to the keyboard and pound out the next novel in a week. (Okay, maybe two weeks, on account of I have that pesky day job.) And why not? The next installment is a already full-blown tale in my head, just begging to be told. And, brother, it’s a corker!
So I sit down, rub my hands together like Van Cliburn warming up for “Moonlight Sonata,” lay my fingers on the home row, and … nothing happens. Not. One. Damn. Thing. For months.
Writer’s block, you say? Nah. Writer’s block would be a step up.
I’ve tried all the usual remedies—leisurely walks with my dog, Molly; ice cream; red wine; ice cream; free writing; ice cream; wearing my jersey inside out. Fail, fail, fail, fail, fail, fail, and, oh yeah, I don’t have a jersey. Meanwhile, the “agent” perched on my shoulder harps on the dire consequences of “failure to publish in a consistent, timely manner” and points to fellow authors on Facebook—Ten thousand words today!—sneering, “Why can’t you be like her?”
Have I been tense and unhappy? Do I feel pressured bordering on desperate? You could say that. You could also call Katrina a stiff breeze.
Now, as we all know, there are no atheists in foxholes. That being the case, I decided to discuss my verbal constipation with the Man Upstairs. And we were chatting, by which I mean I was whining about how I would probably never be able to write again, and how that would just about kill me, and oh, by the way, what am I supposed to do with these two (no, make that three) books in my head?
And I said, with great consternation, “How come writing was more fun before I self-published?”
And He said, “Bingo!”
And I said, “Huh?”
But, you know, I finally got it—well, maybe—one of the biggest dangers of self-publishing, at least for me: Writing starts to become business and stops being fun. I lose the sheer delight of my art, the joy of painting with words, as in ….
The tseet-tseet of the blood-red cardinal in my back yard. Molly’s liquid-brown eyes. The hollow ache of loss, rain drumming on a tin roof, the way the air tastes in that blue hour before dawn.
Know what’s really funny? I’ll probably never use those phrases in a novel. Can’t say for sure, of course, but chances are. Still ….
I do love to paint. Love, as Michener said, “the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotion.”
So I’m putting the novel on the shelf for a while … maybe a long while. Gonna taste some words, paint small, and rediscover the joy.
I’m gonna dance like nobody’s watching.
Then, we’ll see.