On Wednesday I hit a wall with The Swan Harp; the whole task seemed insurmountable. The novel has changed drastically from the way I first conceived it, even from its second draft. I’ve been working on and thinking about this third draft since the end of May, and it seemed, on Wednesday,that I’d never be able to finish. I had a minor meltdown.
I have a toolkit to deal with these moments, and I rummaged through it on Wednesday, believe you me!
Friends came to my aid when I hollered, with reassurance and also practical help. Some of them have read the second draft, some have not, but they all had good things to say, from “I know you can do this” to “Right – send us the thing and we’ll look at it for you.” Let me reiterate here that writing may have to be physically done in isolation, but no writer makes it without support. I have great support.
I called my husband, who made supportive-husband noises, and walked me through installing Skype on my laptop so that I can confer with distant readers. He also said, “A good night’s sleep will help.”
I did what I could in practical terms to raise my endorphin levels – I did my aerobic routine, and also had some dark chocolate. Exercise is not one of my favourite things, but I’ve come to realize that it makes a huge difference in my mental outlook, even short-term.
When I calmed down a bit, I decided to list the incidents in the novel in the order I have them now. When I’d done that, I thought, I could see what needed to be rearranged, what cut, where I would need to write more, and what I’d need to write.
Finally, I know that I have wonky brain chemistry. Even with the antidepressants, there are going to be times when it goes haywire on me, and Wednesday was one of those days. While it doesn’t make the feelings go away, it’s a bit of help to know that eventually things will settle down and I’ll be closer to what I call normal.
Part of my anxiety was because of my own inexperience. The agent I spoke to told me I didn’t have a deadline – that she simply wanted to see the best draft I could produce. Other writers said, “Oh, that’s a way of seeing if you’re disciplined. Take too long and she won’t want you.” In my inexperience, I chose to believe in a secret code rather than take her at her word. Silly me.
I’m concerned that if I have to work on The Swan Harp until December, I’m going to be so heartily sick of it that I won’t be doing my best work. Here David came up with another suggestion – that during the three-day binge coming up, I work on something else. I’m going to do that.
I’ve been told I seem both confident and competent. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I’m both. On Wednesday, it was a lifesaver to have people – and chocolate, and, yes, even exercise – to help me through my doubts.