When we give advice, we hope others will listen. Rarely do we take our own words of wisdom and put them to use. And I'm not sure anyone else could have helped me find my way back to my novel. I needed to do it all on my own. I had to want to tell the story again.
Today I feel the story like a tangible presence. All I needed to find my way was a set of my own words: "Don't look back." (Technically one of my characters says this to another character, but still, I wrote it). At first glance, those words only existed in the context of a story I wanted to keep working on again, but I wasn't sure how to get back the momentum I'd gained while working on my thesis. That need to keep working fizzled away in the months I took away from this work-in-progress.
I suppose it wasn't so much that I didn't want to tell this story anymore after turning in my thesis. If anything I was exhausted, and I need a way to feel energized again, which meant months of Netflix and short story writing and world building.
I needed to move forward without looking back.
Each writer has their own way of transcribing stories from their heads and onto the page. I've always been the kind of writer with a need to get everything down on paper first AND then go back to see what I'd left behind, to revise; to make sense of my story. Even with short stories, I tend to work the same way. But being in an M.F.A. program contradicts this type of writing process. There are deadlines and revisons, which means fixing the work along the way.
Looking back on that process now, I can say it was an interesting experiment in testing my own boundaries, and learning about the process of revision. But I also learned I am not the type of writer that can revise along the way, which is why I now have fourteen revised chapters and twenty more that still need to be written.
I suppose as I write this, that my chapter count is not accurate, because, like I said, I finally found my way back to my novel. I wrote one complete (and maybe horrible) chapter, and I'm back in that world again! So I guess the number is now down to nineteen chapters that need to be completed. And while that number seems daunting (believe me, it probably is) at least I know how many chapters I need to finish this crazy amazing story I have in my head. At least it feels crazy and amazing when chapters unfold in the shower. (Always the shower lately because it is the only quiet moment I have during the day to think).
I suppose this post might seem like a contradiction as I look back at the progress I've made this week. But I guess for you invisible readers to understand, you must know that these posts have become somewhat of a road map of the long journey I've taken the past few years on this path to publication I'm still seeking. And for that there must be a finished book, so alas, that is what I must do the next few months, because, yes, the goal is to be finished in the next few months.
I hope if I can offer you anything, it's the idea that sometimes you can't look back at the finished chapters because sometimes there are more that still need to be written. I guess this can apply to most anything in life, and I guess, maybe, you might not take this advice at all. But I hope, maybe, you will.