Deborah Siegel owns her writerly angst.
A few weeks ago, I proclaimed my new status of not-writing-that-next-book
. I declared my peace with the decision, heart-wrenching though it was, and announced my intention to move on. The books amassed for the ex-topic are still gathering dust on my shelf—haven’t had the courage to pack them away—but my heart is healed and already I’m hatching something new. So why, then, am I feeling unmoored?
Honestly, I don’t miss the ex-book, the one I let go. I miss the idea
of the ex-book. I don’t miss the topic. What I miss is having one to wear on my arm.
Not writing, like writing itself, is angst. No matter how at peace, no matter how zen, when I’m not immersed in a long form writing project, part of me doesn’t know who I am.
The other day, I attended what’s called a “bigmouth” meeting for someone else’s book, the kind of meeting where media and other loudmouth parties are invited to brainstorm with the publisher and help build buzz for the launch. It seems like a good book, an important one, and on a topic I care deeply about. Scanning the crowd gathered around the long oval boardroom table, I recognized movers and shakers galore. It was the kind of gathering that usually energizes me. But I felt less loudmouth and more....hush. Not my usual m.o. at all.
Reality check: It’s easy to romanticize having a project when you’re not right smack in the thick of one. In reality, it can suck. The years I spent writing my dissertation were some of the most difficult years I’ve spent. Writing a book itself is hard, thankless, love/hate kind of work. When you’re not writing one, you focus on the love. In truth, the sex was rarely as good as you remember.
But it does keep you company, and warm.
In recent weeks The Agent (On Falling in Love"
), The Editor ("How Does It Feel?
"), guest blogger Clara Paulino
, and I all find ourselves writing about our relationships with book projects as love affairs. What gives? Is there something in the She Writes air? Even as I write this post, the feminist in me finds the metaphor (at least, the way I'm
using it) problematic. But it works. The connection we feel—whether as author, agent, or editor—to our writing projects runs deep. Unlike many other professions, ours is intricately connected to our inner-most selves. The books we write, edit, and represent tell us not merely what we “do”, they tell us something about who we are
And who we are is often changing. Yesterday I had a conversation with a higher up at More magazine
about reinvention. And during that conversation, I realized the extent to which a writer must reinvent herself with the creation of each and every work.
We live in chapters. We are works in progress.
And I, as you know by now, am an open book.
So help me out, She Writers: Who are you when you’re not doing the thing that defines you as your most ambitious self? What do you tell yourself? How do you recognize yourself, and feel grounded, when you are living (creatively speaking) in that place “in between”?