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Aug 9, 2010

Hopelessly Devoted to You, WIP

It's been ten years since I started writing Dindi.

I'm in even worse shape than Susanna Daniel, who wrote on this a while ago in Slate.

This means that the time from my novel's conception to its appearance on store shelves adds up to a staggering 10 years. An entire decade. Between, I graduated and spent a year on fellowship (during which I wrote a lot but only half of it was any good); then there were the teaching years (during which I wrote very little, hardly any of it good); then there were the Internet company years (during which I barely wrote at all).

Stiltsville is in good company, which is reassuring. There are oodles of novels that took a decade or longer to write—including some famous examples, like Junot Díaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Díaz spoke in interviews about his own decade of active non-accomplishment. He said that five years into the process, he decided to give up on the novel and start a graduate degree (in what, he didn't say). He said his life improved: no more torture, no more fights with his fiance. Oh, Junot, I thought when I read this, I understand! Still, something pulled him back, and another five years passed, and then he was finally done.

...The thing is—one-day-at-a-time is the most painful way for active non-accomplishment to happen. It's the psychological equivalent of death by a thousand cuts. A painter I knew told me once that she'd reached a point when she said goodbye to painting, much the same way Junot Díaz considered doing—she said it was the kindest, most generous thing she'd ever done for herself.

... I woke one night in the midst of a minor panic attack. It wasn't unusual for me wake in the night, anxious and scared—and I always knew the source of the panic right away. But it was rare for my heavy-sleeping husband to wake at the same time. And instead of reassuring him and letting him get back to sleep, I told him the naked, humbling truth. I told him that if I didn't finish my novel, I thought my future happiness might be at risk. He wiped his eyes and yawned and said, "OK. Let's figure out how to make this happen."

Oh, WIP! (Wipes tear from eye.) I dedicate a this song to you.

(Bad karaoke begins.)

Guess mine is not the first heart broken,
my eyes are not the first to cry I'm not the first to know,
there's just no gettin' over you
Hello, I'm just a fool who's willing to sit around
and wait for you....

My head is saying "fool, forget him",
my heart is saying "don't let go"
Hold on to the end, that's what I intend to do
I'm hopelessly devoted to you.

But now there's nowhere to hide,
since you pushed my love aside I'm not in my head,
hopelessly devoted to you
Hopelessly devoted to you,
hopelessly devoted to you.


Anonymous said...

Love this! Absolutley love this, lol!

Cruella Collett said...

So true! WiPs are hard to let go of. Fortunately. I have been struggling with mine for a long time too, but for some reason I don't feel that it's been that long. Maybe in my head I am just counting the hours actually spent working on it (in which case it hasn't been very long at all)?

Kelsey (Dominique) Ridge said...

Incredible. I'm in major awe of you. I'm just at 11.5 months with my WIP, and your 10 makes that look like nothing. Still, I think I understand your feeling. Good luck with Dindi!

RosieC said...

Dedication! How true it is. I have had those panicky, wake-from-the-nightmare-of-failure moments all too often.

PS--I have an award waiting for you on my blog if you have a chance to stop by.

Jayne said...

Hello! I came by from RosieC's blog, at least I think I did - sometimes I get a bit befuddled in blog-world! I know the feeling with working on a long WIP - mine has clocked up five years, and I have only just sent it out to query (and have no fingernails left as I bite them in anxiety).

Michelle D. Argyle said...

I currently have a novel that is 14 years old and I've worked on it off and on. It's hard to know if I should just kick it out of my life, but it keeps limping back. I will publish it someday. Somehow.