Have you ever noticed that your attitude at the beginning of a major project is different than it is at the end? Here’s a pictorial example from the San Diego Half-Marathon (13.1 miles) which I ran a few years ago:
This picture was taken at about mile 3 on the perfectly beautiful San Diego course. You can see me smiling, enjoying the wonderful weather. Looks like I was having a really good time.
In the beginning, it’s fun.
Here’s a picture of me at the end of the race. Less than a mile to go. No more smile. I was very tired and my right hip was sore. I just wanted to get over the finish line.
At the end, it’s all about getting it done.
As I look back at that race, I notice a remarkable similarity with other times of my life when I took on major projects.
When I started college, I was so excited to embark on the new adventure. But by the time I was a senior, I just wanted to finish so I could get on with the rest of my life. Happy to be done.
I’ve noticed the same behavior in software development teams. Whenever we started a project, everybody was rarin’ to go. Top of the mountain ebullience. But after months of slogging through the hard work of programming, resolving issues and facing unanticipated problems (we termed it “the valley of despair”), the team just wanted to get it done. Glad to have reached the finish line.
But here’s the surprise: the process of writing a novel has been very different for me. It’s not about a race or a project with a finish line. It’s all about the journey.
I started out to write my novel with lots of excitement and enthusiasm mixed with a little fear. I spent months typing away at the keyboard, coming up with the plot and shaping my characters and their challenges. I often fell asleep thinking about the story, and I even laughed out loud at some of the things my characters said. I finally got to the point where I thought I had a good story, so I sent out query letters. I got back rejections – imagine that! Yes, it was disappointing, but thanks to all the information I had about novel-writing, I had expected it.
When I realized I needed help, I moved on to the next phase: looking for a professional editor to provide feedback and mentor me through the process. I was fortunate to have found Kathy Ide who has been my guide through the revision, rewriting, and book proposal steps. It took a long time and several iterations of rewriting and revising. I had to change the entire Point of View approach. As hard as that was, it was undeniable that the revision process made the story much better.
I spent many hours putting together book proposals and sending them to publishers who would accept a manuscript directly from an author. I didn’t know if any of them would be interested, and I was prepared for more rejection.
But then I received an offer to publish from a small publisher. Soon after, I got another one. In the end, I had several offers, and I chose Crosslink Publishers. Being a complete novice, I thought we could probably get everything done and release the book in a couple of months. That was about nine months ago. You would think waiting for such a long time would be frustrating, but it wasn’t. I had lots of work to do to prepare for the launch.
And all along the way, I had the great pleasure of meeting an abundance of interesting and talented people who share my passion for words and have become my friends.
The Watch on the Fencepost will be officially released on February 22, 2019. As I look back on these years, I savor the memories. I don’t feel like I’ve reached the finish line, but just the next milestone in this fascinating journey of novel writing. And like all fascinating journeys, I can’t wait to see what’s around the next corner.
Consider this snippet from “The Road to Ithaka” by C. P. Cavafy:
“Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you’re destined for.
But don’t hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
So you’re old by the time you reach the island,
Wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,
Not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.”
What surprises have you had in your writing journey?
What encouragement would you offer other writers?