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?
22 responses to “This Is Where All My Words Have Gone”
Finding yourself during a pandemic. Way to go!
I love that you are doing something you love! We are cheering you on with loud voices and joyful hearts. 🙂
Oh Beth! Can’t find words.. So glad you are doing something with your writing that sparks the joy. I have had that self same thought myself. (And you may remember I wrote to you a long while ago about blogging – you are such an inspiration.) ..And since a few years ago when I thought “you know what, I like writing, I’m going to pursue my brave” I have belonged to a fiction writing group (we’ve moved several times so there have been several) and it’s totally life giving and reminded me *I love fiction and fantasy and it makes me happy*, and I know “it helps me and others to explore deep truths so why would I try to cut myself off from it??” – But somehow there are voices which say “it’s not real, it’s not important”. I try to answer “who cares?” more often nowadays and it feels strong. A small part of that ruminating fighting and reassurance appeared here on a recent blog in case anyone might be encouraged. Blessings. Ellie
Sign me up for the “will buy copies for self and friends” plan, please, in whatever route this takes to publiction.
Hello, as a lover of fiction I would love to read your Book. I would definitely but it. Would you self publish ?
Best of luck
That’s wonderful, Beth!!! Way to go!
I want to read it!
Can I buy a copy?
That’s very exciting. I wanted to say, in case you didn’t know, that not all publishers require you to have an agent. There are publishers out there who welcome new submissions direct from an author. They’re not the ginormous ones, of course, but it might be useful information. And I can’t wait to read your book when (and it is when, not if) it gets published. Your writing always makes me feel… and I think that’s the most important thing. Your writing is smart, funny and easy to read, and you understand the boring bits like punctuation and grammar… but to make someone feel with your words, that’s the special part. I wish you much luck and all the love. (Currently somewhere between somewhat fucking terrible and not as fucking terrible.)
So thrilled for you! Can’t wait to read it!
Thrilled for you! Less Fucking Terrible is a good goal and following your writing passion is downright great. Congratulations on your inspirational ambition!
Your words in a book! I’m so excited for you and for all who will have the privilege to read it!
Just this morning I was thinking about you. Wondering how you were, wondering if all your words had left you or if you were doing so well that the words weren’t necessary. Wondering if you would even notice one more wave in your direction – and here you are, and you have done something brave and amazing and just for you. I am so happy to see this update.
I can’t wait to read it! I myself started a kids fantasy novel while a kid myself (age 10) and kept working on it until I finally finished it at age 26, then did absolutely nothing with it out of fear of rejection. My mom read it to her third grade classes every year and it got good reviews, I just know it needs a major rewrite (cause, age 10, ya know?). But last week I sat down and started writing ANOTHER book, a more adult, reality-based fiction one, which felt great since I spend my life editing the words of others and have no time to write my own anymore (or so I tell myself, but maybe it’s just fear that I just can’t write anymore). So, I say, good on you, and I will follow your tale, and perhaps send my own out for rejection (or acceptance?).
From the woman who put me onto Ilona Andrews and various other wondrous things, I can’t wait to read your fiction. Sounds like a fine plan, may it being you all the joy.
Here in England it is sunny/snowing/hailing all in the space of hours and minutes. I am on 2 weeks break from doctoring which is frankly fucking amazing, and the 5 am waking gently jibbering is easing, but the persistent spasm under my left eye has yet to bugger off. I’m hoping by end of week 2 it will have fully departed.
My mother is about to move in with us for end of life, and I am feeling all of the things. Joy and sadness and a little anxiety and relief. Living fully in the both/and. Holding onto promises of Love.
Sending love to all in whatever fucking mess you find yourself in, may the sun and snow bring you equal joy. X
I had to reply to say that I really hoped for more from our English spring this year. The sun/snow/hail combination is not acceptable and the weather really needs to take the hint from the trees currently blossoming. Sending you love, hugs, better weather for the rest of your break, and everything you need for you and your mum’s next stage. Oh yes, and a message for the spasm: fuck the fuck off. Take care.
Wow that’s huge! Big loving congrats on fulfilling your wish and need to write what I’m sure will be a VERY entertaining novel that I can’t wait to read, fantasy is perfect. As for me – hanging in, passed a year working from home full time, almost a year since my partner was sent to work in central WA, 3 hours away, get to see him every other weekend when he can so mostly it’s me and the dogs and the phone. So… hanging in about covers it. Sending hugs!
As a writer of fiction I say welcome! And, YES! I’m so happy for you and would most definitely read your fantasy novel. My newest novel is fantasy. I’ve never had an agent but they’d be stupid not to sign you with the platform you have!
I am… alive. Breathing. Kinda. Getting through. Just.
But I would pay money to read a fantasy with representation and humour and friendship and hope and love. Just say when and I will be there!
Get OUT!!!!! AMAZEBALLS! I am so f#$king happy and excited for/with you! Simply incredible. Congrats Beth! That’s just pure awesomeness. I cannot wait to read it – despite you going to great lengths to explain that we all will very much have to wait for it! 🙂
So glad you are aiming high with being less fucking terrible. We all deserve a higher ranking on the Fucking Scale!! Also, WOW!! I love that you wrote what you truly wanted. I’ve had a fiction idea rumbling in my brain for years but haven’t done anything! You are a true inspiration!! You go girl!