One of the things people said when I told them I’d finished my novel was, “So I guess you’re wondering what to do now. It must feel like your child has left home.”
My inner response to that is that I wouldn’t know, as I’ve never had children. But my outer response is that, yes, I was at lewis ends for a bit, but now I’m on to another story.
Years ago I made a dress for a wedding. The sleeves were elaborately embroidered, and I worked at them for weeks. When I actually wore the dress to the wedding, I was very pleased with it, but I’d been Needlework R Me for so many weeks. that I didn’t know what to do with my hands. A friend who had seen me working at the dress said she had a moment of double-take when she saw me at the reception without my embroidery.
I think that brief transitional “what now?” is inevitable. After you’ve lived with any project for a long time, whatever it is, that moment of completion leaves you wondering what to do with the hands that so recently held the needle or the pen or the hammer. Then you start something else – or, at least, I do.
My own writing life is busy and layered, as I think I’ve said before. I have small ongoing projects. I have articles to pitch, and to write. I have five novels lined up to work on, one of which I started at the beginning of October. In short, I never lack for a bit of writing to do if I want it. I like it that way.
I have an inner artist who never quits thinking about art of whatever sort I’m doing. Sometimes I wonder if she even sleeps. I bet she doesn’t. While I was writing on The Swan Harp, this inner artist was juggling the ideas in my head, sorting out which novel to start next She dictated my research reading, poked me with a “Look at that!” whenever something pertinent to one of the novels crossed my path, and eventually handed me a first line and said. “Do this one.”
She’s not a total tyrant. If I were to say to her – to take a completely random example – “I’ve been signed to a three-novel deal for the world of The Swan Harp, and this project will just have to wait until that’s done,” she’d be agreeable. Her job is just to keep me writing. She may work for my Muse, although I can’t actually prove that.
The people who think I’m wondering what to do now also often seem surprised that I’ve begun a new novel. Look, there’s nothing in the writer’s contract that says you get two weeks in Bermuda to recoup after you’ve finished a book. There’s nothing that says you get time off at all. Take it if you need it, I say, and if you’ll enjoy it.
Me, I love writing. I’m back into it again, perhaps a little more slowly than I’ve been working the last few months, but working. There’s always another egg in that nest. I hope there always will be.