05 June 2021

The Terrible Ticking Clock

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

I've talked about it on the blog a few times, but I'd thought I'd go into it a little bit deeper for today's post. 

I'm riddled with anxiety as I write my YA fantasy, Son of the Siren. I've never experienced this kind of fear before. It's been an emotional journey because the book has dipped into some trauma from my life, so that was something I needed to work through and process as I wrote. And then there are the usual fears surrounding publishing -- will I ever get an agent? will this book ever see print? will people even read it? Add on to that pile of pancakes additional fears that come with writing for an audience of young people and the responsibilities that come with it.

But the biggest fear I've experienced, and am STILL experiencing, is of the ever-ticking clock that makes me feel like my time is running out. WHEN will this book be done? WHEN will I see it in print? WHEN will people be able to read it? WHEN will I finally be successful? 

I've always known -- honestly, from birth, it feels like -- that I would be a writer. I gained experience with my playwriting from a very early age and was lucky and privileged enough to see every show I've written make it to the stage. I didn't switch to writing fiction until graduate school, but early on in my life I knew I always wanted to write books. And, being the idealistic little ingenue that I was, I had a timeline in my head already figured out. I thought for certain by my late twenties I'd be published; whether it was a play or a book, one of those things would be in print.

Ha. Ha. Haaaaaaaaaa. 

Graduate school was a wake up call, and that adjusted the timeline. Graduate school showed me that I had no idea what I was doing when it came to writing fiction, and I was basically learning the same time I was pumping out a book. But then, after grad school, I thought for certain I'd see my thesis in print before age 35. I started querying agents immediately after graduating, and the rejections rolled in...and based on feedback from an agent I started rewriting my thesis, and then later had an epiphany about the cultural appropriation in the book (which was unintended, but as we know, good intentions mean nothing when you're causing harm). I decided to rewrite the book from the ground up, and while working on Son of the Siren, I just decided to give up on the book altogether. I don't know how long I'll stick with this idea, but for now, everything with The Name and the Key is shelved. 

Now I'm looking at the timeline with Son of the Siren. It took me one year to write 100 pages. Another year to write 100 more. My gut is telling me this book will be around 300 pages or so, and I'm panicking, going, "COME ON! Does that mean I'll still be writing this book another year from now?" My hair is standing on end. I'm itching to have the draft finished and working on rewrites (my most recent reading of the book definitely revealed to me that some chapters need redone). I want things finished yesterday. I want to be working with beta readers and getting editorial letters today. Tomorrow I want to be querying agents. But my fear and my emotions keep halting me, begging me to take a breather. 

Yet all I hear in the back of my mind is tick...tick...tick...

It's hitting me that I might not realistically see any success for myself until I'm in my forties. Maybe even fifties. 

This really bothers me for some reason, and it shouldn't. 

It's not so much the age number itself that gets to me. I don't think people are old in their 40s or 50s.  It's more like, "I'm 37 years old, soon to be 38, and if I don't get published until I'm 50, that means I've got 12 more years of struggles ahead of me."  

Readers, I just don't want to struggle anymore.  

...I don't want to end this post on something so negative. Let me pull some things I found from social media (both originally from Twitter, reshared on Facebook) that speak to how I'm feeling right now. 

The two key takeaways from these:

  • "The only thing that art asks of you is to do it." 
  • "The thing you love doesn't care." 

My ticking clock is telling me that I've got to be working all the time, but right now my emotions and my fear is telling me to take a break. 

What would happen if I stop doing art for a little while? While author C.L. Polk says that art is asking to be done, the main point is that there is no timeline for doing so. 

What would happen if I stop doing art for a little while? The Swamp Witch says nothing, what I love will still be there. 

If it takes another year for me to write another 100 pages? What's the worst that could happen? Nothing. Because I WROTE 100 PAGES. 

I've long felt guilt for not writing every single day as countless authors say you must do. Now I'm considering taking a bit of a break from Son of the Siren just to get my headspace in working order, and I'm feeling guilt about considering it, because OH MY GOD IF I DO NOTHING, NOTHING WILL HAPPEN!

But nothing will happen to the book while I sit there and not touch it. The book will still be there, and that's what's important: I have a book. A book exists. It will still exist whether I work on it today or tomorrow or a month from now or a year from now. 

While I can't shut the ticking clock up, I can try to come to terms with it. It's difficult for me, but I hope that I can continue to reexamine my relationship with time and my writing, and realize that neither are working against me. 

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