I just turned in the first draft of Book Eight. I hit send on Monday and felt this glorious sense of relief….for about five hours.
I was then reminded – punched in the face really – by my own Things to Remember When You Finish a Book. I don’t know the solutions to some of this stuff, just what I’ve tried and things I need to try harder on. I’m still trying to figure it out myself, but just being aware that this shit is happening… helps.
- SLAMMING ON THE BRAIN BRAKES
I couldn’t think of a better way to say this, but after a deadline I expect my brain to go from 235 mph to 0 simply because I pushed send on an email.
This is, of course, not what happens. Bored and ignored, our brains find new and fun things to busy itself with: how the book is actually shit and you should probably send a follow up email apologizing profusely, building elaborate narratives about how that one friend really doesn’t like you, and listing all the myriad ways you could do better in your life.
The temptation to jump right into another project is an interesting one. I’ve done it and while it gave my little busy brain something to do, I found that the burn out that resulted in not giving myself a break between projects was acute.
WHAT I TRY TO DO: For me, The Listing really flared at night, so I downloaded some meditation apps for the nighttime and they are helping. It gives my brain something to listen to instead of the listing, the lisTING, THE LISTING. I find myself turning on the app multiple times during the night, because if I thought going to sleep was bad, the ‘waking-up-in-a-flop-sweat-with-the-Sword-of-Damocles-over-my-head at 4AM’ thing was worse.
When you’re writing, there is an openness (especially at the end) you need to have. You’re pulling inspiration from everywhere, listening to every conversation, connecting dots, chronicling every moment to see if you can use it – in essence, the Spidey Senses are in full effect.
Again, that openness doesn’t just disappear once we press send. And what I’m always shocked by is how vulnerable and raw I feel in those weeks just after a deadline. Of course, this vulnerability and rawness feels unwelcome and… like there’s kind of something wrong with me. All I did was turn in a book, why am I crying at work watching an Instagram story of someone’s dog seeing snow for the first time?
WHAT I TRY TO DO: Just acknowledging that this openness is happening makes me a little bit kinder to myself, as well as more mindful of the people and places in which I choose to invest my time and energy in the weeks after a deadline. It still… doesn’t feel great though and I do find myself apologizing a lot. “I’m sorry, I just feel off.” I’ll work toward the day when I don’t feel the need to apologize.
On that note….
3. GIVE YOURSELF A TWO WEEK BUFFER
I just attended a lovely gathering – less than a week after turning in my book. Thinking: Let’s get back out there and join the land of the living! I tucked myself into the crook of a nice sectional couch, cradling my glass of water and yes, ooh, you know what – that delightful charcuterie plate reminds me… of failure and rock bottom (which is what Book 8 is about).
Concerned faces. Quiet sips of wine. A cough in the distance.
The temptation to book all those social events you’ve been postponing (and felt massive guilt about) in the immediate weeks after a deadline is great. But, you – my dear fellow writer – are not ready to be among the general population yet.
WHAT I AM TRYING AND WILL TRY HARDER TO DO: From now on, I’m going to give myself a two week buffer until I jump back into my full social calendar. And then, I will try not to apologize for giving myself the two week buffer.
But I don’t want to be isolated and lonely either, so…
4. WHEN VENTURING OUT, STAY IN THE TIER
We have a lovely variety of people in our lives. From the people at the coffeeshop you frequent to the people who know where all your (metaphorical) bodies are buried. The people who know where all your (metaphorical) bodies are buried are those whom I like to call The Top Tier.
The Top Tier are the people who don’t need you to be anyone but exactly who you are – complete with the post-deadline thousand yard stare, communicating through grunts and mid-sentence pitches about that one problematic section of Act 2 YOU KNOW THE ONE, and long, luxurious lunches where you unguardedly talk about everything and nothing.
WHAT I TRY TO DO: When venturing out just after a deadline, I start with people in the Top Tier. Not with people I’d like to be in the Top Tier, or people who thiiiink they’re in the Top Tier, but tried and true Top Tier people. It’s a very small list. Like… can count em on one hand. I … still struggle with this.
5. LEAVE IT… LEEEEAVE IT
In the quiet hours and days that follow pressing send on a project there is a tendency to revisit said project with the focus and heat of a thousand cruel and nit-picky suns.
You have sent it out for notes. People are reading it. The best thing we can do is try – oh do I tryyyyyy – to let it go. Truly let it go, not just “yeah, I’m super mellow, I’m just… you know, reading it to get a feel of the pacing and flow.” (deletes entire second act)
Because if we do truly let it go, then when it returns with notes, we’re able to see it with fresh eyes. And those fresh eyes will get us such a better next draft, then the red rimmed glassy eyes that would have met it had we not stopped fidgeting and futzing with it in the time it was away.
6. THE PHYSICAL TOLL
I’m always so shocked at what a deadline does to my body. It’s just writing, why do I feel like I’ve run a (very cerebral) marathon?
I think what surprises me every time is how much my body holds it together until I press send. Shoulders, back, aches and pains, flu – all of it, just tapping their feet until I relax just a little bit and then… ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE.
You will get sick after a big deadline. Inevitably. It’s usually a cold. And even though I actually kept up with pilates (it really helps with Writer Back), once I pressed send – something shifted. I even got a massage, but I was just… crumpled. The tension and the singular focus that I inflicted on myself, will take some time to heal.
WHAT I TRY TO DO AND CAN TRY HARDER, WHATEVER: Now that I have my mornings back, I’m going to try to go swimming. Also, maybe I should try stretching or some… ugh, I hate it though and why can’t it be good for my body to watch Hallmark Christmas movies and drink tea? Fine. I’ll roll out ye olde yoga mat and… ugh. whatever. STILL A LEARNING PROCESS.
7. CELEBRATE IT!
There will be very well-meaning people in your life – including yourself – that will urge you to “celebrate it!” upon finishing a book. You sent it in! You finished! Woohoo! Time to Parrttayyyyy!
But, the truth is – finishing is complicated. The book has been your constant companion. It’s been just you and it and now… that’s going to change. Fear and insecurity creep in. Doubts and high hopes. Vulnerability hangovers and regret.
We are exquisitely tender in those days and weeks that follow typing The End. Why can’t we just let it go!? What’s wrong with me that I’m not relieved?! Why am I more worried now than during the writing of it? It’s… so confusing.
But, what I’ve started to figure out are some of the things that I can do to celebrate it. Things within my own tier, if you will.
I took a drive by myself up the coast. Made a playlist, got some tea, windows down and just drove. It was lovely.
I also went to The Broad with some Top Tiers and saw beautiful things.
Thinking about doing a double feature of movies – as I haven’t seen a movie at an actual theater in months. Popcorn and everything.
And then I’ll round out my time in the Buffer Zone by sitting on my couch in my 8 o’clock pants, a baguette and some cheese, thinking about trimming my Christmas tree, mulling some spices and watching as many Cozy Mysteries as I can. Or I’ll just watch Zootopia for the tenth time.
Kindness, patience, and tenderness.
Ask it of those around you.
Ask it of yourself.