Way back when “Erik the Viking Sheep” was published, I got a little newsletter from Scholastic about reading in public. It discussed things like how long a reading might be, what you should charge for it and so on, but the part I really remember was about the day-after downer.
“Yesterday you were a star, and today you’re back cleaning the litter box” it said, or some such. The gist of the thing was that you needed to be aware of after-party letdown. I can understand that. While the party is going on, it would be great if it could last forever. But you know you’re going to get tired, if nothing else, and that nothing can last forever.
All the same, I haven’t had after-party letdown over the launch. I’m still happy, and when I think about it, it makes me smile. People who couldn’t make it tell me they heard about it. I’ve been stopped in the grocery store and told what a good time that evening was. It’s like I’ve got a little bunch of helium balloons keeping my feet from quite touching the ground.
I don’t know why I haven’t had the letdown, and I don’t much care. I’m not complaining about the continuing happy feeling. I feel like this is part of the payoff for having worked as hard as everybody tells me I did.
There’s that, too. I know I worked for this. I’ve spent years honing my craft. I’m a careful and particular writer. Yes, sometimes I write quickly, but only after a lot of thought, and I always rewrite at least a bit, even for newspaper articles.
Yet it doesn’t seem like years of hard work. I get a deep satisfaction from creating something, and that in itself is a huge payoff for the work of creation. Work that is absorbing also seems less difficult. You get deeply into it – whatever “it” is – and the time ceases to mean anything. The years of practice kind of fade, too, because the skill has seeped into your bones and muscles and synapses.
I suppose this is part of the ten-thousand-hour phenomenon that Malcolm Gladwell talks about in his book “The Outliers” – that when you’ve spent ten thousand hours at something, there’s a threshold you cross in terms of ease and expertise. I probably hit my ten thousand hours of writing sometime in 2009 or 2010. I’ve crossed a threshold.
This is not to say that writing isn’t work, because it is. There are times when I write dark stuff or exhausting stuff that leaves me wrung out. I get absorbed into the world of the writing and need to resurface and decompress and rest – although “rest” from writing may involve a walk rather than a lie-down.
For right now I’m going to enjoy my little helium balloons of achievement and fame. Eventually the helium will seep out, and my feet will touch down again. Just not today.