Both times I gave birth, I did not fall in love with my children right away. Maybe it was the drugs, or the hormones, or the exhaustion, or some form of shock, or some combination of those, but it took a while for my heart to catch up with my head. I wanted to be one of those mothers who cooed and snuggled and felt that some form of destiny had been fulfilled in one messy whoosh. But I was more “Oh. Babies. Cool. Can I hold them and sniff their heads?”
Maybe it was the fact that I was an older first-time mother, but my head went right into what’s next? — what lies ahead today, this week, this year, and the next 18 years? What is the very next thing I have to do and what are all the things I have to do?
It was definitely the fact that I was an older mother that helped me not panic when I had those thoughts. I knew they were normal feelings, I knew I didn’t need answers to those questions right away, and I knew I could seek out guidance as needed. I also knew that there were immediacies — feeding and being fed, tending to the kids and taking care of myself, and trying to sleep before even thinking about putting the event in perspective.
And pretty quickly I fell in love with my squishy little mole rat-looking babies.
Yesterday I finished my first draft.
I haven’t fallen in love with it yet. Maybe it’s the coffee, the hormones, the exhaustion, some form of shock, or some combination of those, but it’s going to take a while for my heart to catch up with my head.
When I wrote “The End” yesterday, I waited for some moment: A shaft of sunlight to hit something symbolically, the dog to nuzzle up against my leg, a trumpet fanfare. But all that happened was I went back to bedtime stories and meal planning and tidying up and trying to help three little people navigate the stepping stones of their lives and folding laundry.
Much glamour. So celebration.
I began toying with the book idea in July and wrote out a timeline for myself beginning August 9. I started outlining the book on August 22 and began writing it on October 8. I took ten days off from writing between October 8 and December 17, which means I wrote the damn thing in sixty days. 60!
I wrote at least an hour a day on those days, but usually two or three.
I ended up with 103,640 words, which means this thing needs a serious shave, but as I’ve mentioned here before, I do tend to overwrite, so I’m not worried about it. I kind of love that the last day I wrote 1881 words — such a neat chubby little palindrome of a number.
So, what’s next?
I take a break until January, then reread it, reverse-engineer another outline, figure out what else needs to be added/taken out of the book.
Then, and only then, will I worry about making it pretty.
I started reading The History of Wolves the other day, and nearly sobbed at how lush and gorgeous the writing is. In comparison, mine reads like a tween’s rantings – and I don’t mean that in a good way. But that will come.
When I began writing essays five years ago, I had to do each step successively. First plan. Then write. Then reread. Then fix. Then add. Then subtract. Then beautify. Now I can do most of that in my head and/or during the first draft. I used to need a dozen drafts. Now? Two or three (although for some pieces, still a dozen, but those are the ones where I’m stretching.) Some of the process is now streamlined, some of it internalized. Eventually that will happen with book(s), too.
And I know, because I am an older first-time novel writer, that the love will come, maybe with a good night’s sleep, a shower, a glass of Champaign.
And then, now that it’s done, it will be time to start.
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