I’m writing to you today because I’ve been neglecting this space, and I miss you, and I want to explain where my words have gone.
Once upon a time, I set out to write a nonfiction book about the myths I once believed and the truths that replaced them. Myths like we’re supposed to strive for balance. And we should put our best foot forward. And motherhood wouldn’t break and remake me. I had an agent from a big New York literary agency. I had publisher interest. And I spent the next seven years Not Writing the Book. Or rather, I wrote the proposal myriad times. Sample chapters. Comp titles. Outline. The entire shebang. But I never finalized it with my agent (who deserves a special award for long suffering) because…I don’t even know…it never felt right?
Oh, I beat myself up about it. I told myself how lucky I was to have an agent when other writers struggled to find representation. I told myself I was squandering my opportunity. I told myself I wasn’t shooting my shot. I told myself I was probably lazy…while, you know, working full time, writing, raising five children including two who experience significant disability. I was definitely lazy, I said to Me. Or maybe I couldn’t write a book, I thought; maybe that was secretly why I didn’t. Despite writing multiple books’ worth of words here in this place, maybe that was it. Laziness plus lack of ability. That was my bludgeon.
But you want to know the real secret?
***whispers***I wanted to write fiction.
Did I write fiction? NO, OF COURSE NOT. I spent my time on the nonfiction book proposal because who blows off that sort of chance? Especially when I deeply care about the topic? (And I do. MYTH-BUSTING MATTERS.) Especially when a nonfiction book is a powerful way to wave in the dark to folks who feel so alone? (And it is. WHY, HELLO THERE!)
Nevertheless, I was stymied. Every time I sat down to write The Book, I felt…bored. Like, god, I do not want to talk about myself AGAIN. This blog is cathartic. It’s confessional. It’s the truth as far as I understand it. It’s the evolution of my life. And it meets the need to dive into my head and my heart and suss out what’s happening there. It meets the need to scoop bits out and hold them carefully like baby birds and show you the vulnerable pieces. But I discovered this blog is all the time I want to spend unpacking myself. I mean, I have to live with Me all the time, you know? And that is ENOUGH without writing the literal book about it.
So I delayed and I delayed. I set deadlines and let them pass. I finished whole book proposals and didn’t hit “send.”
But I also didn’t write fiction because then I would be Wasting My Time. First, I don’t have a fiction agent, so I’d be starting over from scratch. Second, fiction isn’t my platform; it’s not what I’ve built. And third, fiction is…frivolous…and while I LOVE that other writers willingly spend their one wild and precious life writing the fiction I devour, I questioned whether that was how I wanted to spend mine. What if…what if I come to the end of my life, and I only have make-believe to show for it?
But then, dear friends, then I wondered…what if I come to the end of my life, and I only have joy to show for it? What if I come to the end of my life, and I only have a fantastical world to leave behind? What if I come to the end of my life, and I realize I gleefully lived it weaving tales of magic and mayhem?
So, a year ago—right before the After Times—I started to write. Frivolously. Joyfully. Gleefully.
A year ago, I let myself off my leash and allowed myself to have a go at fiction. I released all of the Should Haves with the book I was Supposed To write. I told my (former) agent I’m Very Sorry and Maybe Someday but Not Right Now. I went on indefinite hiatus from My Own Expectations, and I decided to do this other thing at which I might Spectacularly Fail.
A year ago, I started plotting and plodding and writing obsessively. I experienced Full Pandemic Brain Shutdown and laid it aside for several months because I was Unable to Can. Then I picked it back up and finished a Shitty First Draft with too many words. I corralled and co-opted my librarian and editor and book store friends. And, based on their feedback, I redrafted and reorganized, and drafted again, breathing life one lungful at a time into a story about magic and adventure with quirky, queer characters and slow-burn romance and powerful platonic friendship.
And now there’s a book. A fantasy novel. Which isn’t what I thought I’d write at all. It’s a book without an agent. A book that may never be published. A book I wrote for sheer pleasure with no future guaranteed. And although I’ve begun querying fiction agents—although I’m going to try to birth this book into the world—I’m strangely content with the unknown.
So there it is. I spent seven years not writing the book I didn’t want to write and a few months writing a book I did. I thought about hanging onto this info. Keeping it to myself until I know whether it will amount to anything. But then I thought nah. Being Successful and Having Things Figured Out has never been a prerequisite for writing in this space. And I thought you ought to know where all my words have gone.
P.S. I’ll keep you in the loop as I begin to navigate this world of querying agents. I’m sure I’ll write more about it as I dive deeper. It can take months—even years—or never happen at all. And finding the right agent doesn’t guarantee a sale to a publisher. So we’ll find out what happens together. Welcome to the unknown.
P.P.S. In the meantime, I’ve begun another novel.
P.P.P.S. Last time we talked, we discussed the Fucking Terrible Scale. I can report I remain Somewhat Fucking Terrible. During the After Times, I’ve decided this is Normal. It’s Good. I’m Fine. But I’ve also contacted my doctor for a medication update because even though I believe Somewhat Fucking Terrible is perfectly acceptable right now, and I’m trying to be kind and go easy on myself, I’m setting my sights on the even loftier goal of being Less Fucking Terrible. What can I say, friends? I’m an overachiever. Follow me for more Motivational Life Tips.
P.P.P.P.S. How are you?