How We Feel About Our Book
I have mentioned before that I often do my best thinking right when I wake up in the morning. That liminal state between sleep and wake is when I hear the purest, clearest voices telling me what I should be thinking about that day. It’s why I value my sleep so much — because it’s an important key to my creative self. (Honestly I will destroy you with lasers that shoot from my eyes if you mess with my sleep.)
This morning, I woke up with this half-sentence in my head: “How I feel about my book is…” It felt automatically like an exercise I should engage in, answering this question. To write vividly for a while, to check in on my relationship with this entity I have been forming for more than a year1, and which I work on in one way or another every single day.
I grabbed the closest notebook and pen. The pen, oddly, had red ink, which made me think as I wrote that I was perhaps correcting myself the entire time. Or that I could not lie to myself.
How I feel about my book is that it’s mine, it’s wholly mine, and there have been no outside influences on it yet. Things can get weird when other people show up and have something to say about it, so I should really just appreciate it now, even if it is isolating after so much time. The book is pure and intact and blossoming in front of me. A rare moment.
It needs tending to, though; even if I can get it to the next place, the end of this draft, it will need so much more work, layers of rich details, connecting of all the dots. I need time and perspective. I need to gaze at it from multiple directions.
The other day in the dog park I ran into a sculptor I know and we got to talking about process. She told me she teaches her students that when they finish a piece, they should turn it upside down to see if it still works. She said that a piece should work from all angles. And I loved that idea, and also immediately thought: Well now I have to turn this book upside down when I’m done. Whatever that means for text as opposed to a 3D object.
I have another 20-25,000 words left to write. This feels like it will take forever. But plot lines I thought would be entire chapters are now merging with other plot lines in smaller spaces. Things are getting compressed. Time is moving faster now as I get closer to the contemporary moment in the timeline, like it does every day on this earth. (How is it Thursday again, I ask myself, again, again, again.) Stop worrying about time anyway, probably. All the things that need to be written, they will be written.
How I feel about this book is that I have to trust it to show me the way to the end. It feels heavy and hard sometimes but I still love it.
I offer this up as an interesting exercise to you, too, today. To answer that question. To take a step back and look at whatever your project is from a new direction. I don’t even know if it helps the process, but actually it was just really nice to know I still loved my book.
I hope you’re having a good summer.
You are reading Craft Talk, the home of #1000wordsofsummer and also a weekly newsletter about writing from Jami Attenberg. I’m also on twitter and instagram. I try to answer comments as best I can, which are open to paid subscribers. You can subscribe here or give a gift subscription here. (If you are a teacher let me know, and I will give you a free subscription.) Fifty percent of the proceeds will go to various cultural, educational, and social justice organizations in New Orleans (and sometimes elsewhere). This week’s donation went to Sylvia Rivera Law Project.
Or my whole life, if you really think about it, the details, the layers, the skills, the energy, the wisdom, always forming, intertwining, building, funneling, fueling the creative self, so that everything we create is just a sum of the moments that came before then.