So I’m in this weird limbo-land: between finishing a book and the whatever-comes-next. That space between the exhale (Whew! That’s done) and the inhale (Eek! What now?)
It’s not that I don’t have projects lined up. I do. The Writer magazine assigned me a book review. I have edits to look over for a JAMA essay coming out soon. I need to prepare for the writing workshop I’m teaching at the University of Iowa this spring. I’m busy outlining my next book.
I guess more than the projects, it’s about routine. Writing a book, I was in it for the long haul. I logged thousands of hours of “ass-in-chair” time (Dennis Lehane’s term, not mine), notebook in lap, pen flying, words somehow landing upright on the page. I spent every evening typing hand-written notes from yellow legal pad paper into 12-point Times New Roman on my computer. I was on a roll. A day-in-day-out years-long roll. So how do I transition from that dailiness to…well, whatever this is?
So maybe it’s not the projects or the routine. Maybe it’s more about immersion. For years, I have been absorbed in this one story. My story. It’s not the same as fiction, where I’ve lived with characters I now have to say goodbye to. My book is a memoir. My characters are my family. They’re not going anywhere and neither am I. But I’ve been absorbed in the telling of our story, the rendering of emotion, leading the reader by the hand through my world, painstakingly describing in excruciating detail the lousy hand we’ve been dealt and the way we’ve handled it.
Maybe it’s not about the projects, the routine or the immersion. Maybe I’m just in a period of mourning. This dear friend I’ve spent every waking hour with for the last four years is no longer around. Not quite dead. But not part of my daily existence. Other people are reading her, looking at her. An agent, an editor, a project manager, an advance reviewer.
So maybe it’s jealousy. I now have to share my closest friend with not one other person or a couple of people but with the world. I have to share her with whoever wants to dance with her.
Maybe it’s everything. The project, the routine, the immersion. I’m mourning. I’m jealous. Maybe that’s why this period of time feels so jumbled up to me. Because it is. It’s many emotions. It’s many processes, all banging up against one another in my exhausted, wrung-out brain. There’s got to be a word for this feeling, perhaps uniquely a writer’s. But don’t ask me to come up with a name for it. For now, I’m just too exhausted.