I’ve always been a little bit in love with the idea of hunkering down, of weathering periods of time from the confinement of one’s home. Maybe that comes from reading Little House on the Prairie when I was little. Maybe it’s a byproduct of hours spent playing Oregon Trail. Perhaps it stems from my childhood in Georgia, where the threat of snow sent parents fleeing work, filling grocery carts with milk and bread, and then staying firmly put at home until the snow had melted.
These situations all involve channeling a way of thinking that is, nowadays, a bit old fashioned. It’s about foregoing modern transportation. It’s about stockpiling and wisely utilizing resources. It’s about spending stretches of time alone, or with very few people.
While hunkering down is easily associated with prairie life or inclement weather, I have found over the past few weeks, that it easily translates to the writing life as well. A long, hard winter seems to approach, and I must prepare for it.
Last week, dear friends, I finished the first draft of my first novel. I was elated, but only for a moment. From there, I was seized with anxiety, exhaustion, something like buyer’s remorse, and a phantom sore throat. I felt almost disappointed, like it was an anti-climax to thirteen months of effort.
As I examined those feelings with both my wife and my writing buddy, I realized it was likely because yes, the first draft was a HUGE accomplishment, a joyous occasion, but that there is still much work to be done.
I felt a bit like a farmer who has had a productive spring, an outstanding summer, with relatively little problems from pests and weather. But now it’s fall, and with that comes a whole new load of work to do. So while surviving summer is wonderful, there’s still the next season to think about.
As I begin sorting through my manuscript, making plans and identifying problem areas, I realize that the second draft is my long, hard winter ahead. It will require a different writing process: no longer about just surviving the first draft, composing a work of specific length, the second draft will be about polish, finesse, problem-solving. It will require more and different effort from me.
To pull it off, I am feeling the need to simplify my life. Truly, I feel the inclination to mosey on into a cave and hibernate. (In this post, I’ve been a prairie settler, a parent on a snow day, a farmer, a writer, and now a bear. Join me in this grab bag of mixed metaphors, won’t you?) Since total hibernation is not an option, I must tunnel down and grab my concentration where I can get it.
For the next couple of months, I’ll be walking away from Whisks & Words for a bit.
In 1933, Virginia Woolf wrote in her diary, “I think the effort to live in two spheres: the novel; and life; is a strain.” To split consciousness, focus, to pull ourselves out of the fictional dream, is difficult. It’s also necessary. Life will not go away merely because one is writing a novel.
But the writer’s prerogative may be to simplify life. That is what I’m attempting to do. Taking a hiatus from a blog is a scary thing. In the go-go world of the Internet, prolonged silence can make you feel obsolete, like you’ve faded into the spam of the Internet’s yester-moment, ceasing to be important, almost ceasing to exist. To put down one piece of writing to focus on another is a commitment to one at the possible detriment of the other. And yet, it must be done. For now.
I’ll be back before too long, hopefully with good news to share, happy stories to report, and a few good recipes to tell you about. I was thinking of how the characters of my novel would bid you farewell, and in my mind, I lined them up in front of the stairs like the Von Trapp children in The Sound of Music. One would likely downplay the leaving, making plans and promises, almost to the point of apology, almost convincing you she’s not actually going anywhere. Another would likely face the sad truth of it unflinchingly. She would stare down departure and call it by its name. She would solemnly hug you, linger for a moment, and say goodbye and then walk away quickly with her head down, and she wouldn’t dare look back. And the final one would pop and sizzle, tossing a scarf about her neck and distracting you with flurries of activity. She would say something cheesy and old-fashioned, like, “Until we meet again,” or “Ta for now, darling.”
Her approach is the one I’ll take. Ta for now, darlings. Until we meet again.