Monday, December 7, 2009

Book-Baby on the Brain: When Your Writing Becomes All-Consuming

It's been a strange few days filled with sickness, and thus misery, which persists still. And yet, I continue to write because obsessions have a way of taking priority--especially now as I'm on the verge of finishing the first draft of my second novel. I'm at that point where the writing project becomes all consuming, invading all my thoughts, dreams, and just about every conversation. For example, here's a snippet from a recent conversation:

My mom: Carol, honey, pardon the interruption; I know you're working, but--

Carol: Not a problem, Mom. You'll never believe what just happened!

My mom: Oh? Well, let me just tell you first that--

Carol: It was hilarious, Mom. I had Anthony in the bathroom, right? And he's looking around, making sure no one's watching, and then--

My mom: Carol, who's Anthony?

Carol: Oh, know. Anthony! From my book?

My mom: Oh, I--

Carol: Anyway, he waves Scarlett into the men's bathroom, and....

It's terrible, isn't it? Fact is, if you're not calling to discuss my book, well, we'll be discussing it anyway. Not because I don't value what you have to say, but I have book-baby on the brain. I don't mean it to be this way. It what it is. Indeed, I just picked up my daughter from school, and the entire ride home, I explained to her this really cool plot twist that just sort of appeared out of nowhere.

Me: "I'm telling you, hon, I never would have come up with it had I outlined the story. Isn't that great?" [glancing into rearview mirror]

My daughter: [Looks up from her Teen Vogue magazine] "Yeah, yeah. Really, mom. Great."

Oh, we hungry to have someone else love our work as much as we do. It's very much like having a baby, no? When my oldest was born--before the digital camera--I used to get doubles on every photograph I took of my little one to send copies to everyone I knew. I envisioned them plastering their refrigerators and walls and maybe even their ceilings with photos of my baby.

And yet, I I the only one who responds to a question of, "How are you?" with "My book is fabulous!"? I'm fairly certain that every other conversation I have usually transforms into a monologue about my latest chapter. Oddly though, while I'll talk your ear off about my book, my palms go into sweat overload when it comes time to let anyone actually read it. Bizzare.

But it's more than just about sharing your work, isn't it? It's about sharing your enthusiasm, your passion for something that you believe in. And until that first rejection comes, you truly do believe in your work. You laugh at your own wit and cry at the misery of your characters--in essence, you marvel at your own skills. But that's not such a bad thing, is it? To feel blessed by a gift? To enjoy it enough that you want to share?

Anyway, I'd love to hear your comments on this. Drop me a line...or better yet, give me a call. I know you want to now.


  1. Pretty much when anyone asks how I'm doing I automatically assume that they want to know how the novel's doing. They sometimes do mean that, and they sometimes don't - but they always find out, haha.

  2. This is me right now. All I can think about is my story. It sort of hovers right above my head, and any time I try to do something not story-related, it starts flashing and whirring and it's very distracting. Fortunately, it's been a slow day at work, and a lot of people are out. My lunch hour writing time was definitely longer than an hour.... :-)

  3. I love it that you were talking about your characters like they're flesh and blood! So much fun when that happens.

    I love talking about my writing with other writers, but usually clam up around non-writers.

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  4. Because I've put down the ole narrative non-fiction (in the hope that an agent will see its utter brilliance and demand the proposal immediately), I've stopped doing this. Mostly. But -- I think I drove my friends, mostly other editors I work with, nuts... asking for feedback, nitty edits, etc. :-/ I have, though, looked into some local writing groups, hoping I can find some other writers that might be interested in a manuscript swap. I figure at least with like-minded nuts, we can all get a fix. :D

  5. I am with Elizabeth - if it's another writer I'm talking to, I will freaking GO OFF about my book. But if it's someone who I can tell really doesn't care or know anything about my book or what it's like to try and write one, then I'll be like, "Yeah, the book's cool." Weird, huh?

  6. Hahaha when the book's totally on my brain I just don't talk. It's like no other world exists.

  7. I can't say I'm that obsessive about my work, but perhaps 'cause my characters only stick around for at most 20 pages. I do agree with the enthusiasm and passion bit though. One of the things I most look forward to every month is my critique group meeting. Everyone is so involved, so passionate about writing and words, despite the fact we all write different genres, it's a pleasure to socialize (and have a nice glass of wine) with like-minded folk.

    Go ahead, good lady. Let your book-baby go free. That's what it wants, isn't it?

  8. Love it :) I'm with Anne & Elizabeth on this one!

  9. Sara, ha! That's hilarious. "I'm just going to assume you mean my book."

    Sherrah, does your family think your as insane as my family thinks I am?

    Elizabeth, if I were smart, I'd take you approach.

    misadventuresofmommy, writing group is probably an excellent approach to the madness.

    Anne, it's definitely wiser. Otherwise they think you're self-absorbed, but I just want to say it's more than that! I swear.

    Frankie, it's funny how we all deal with the book-baby madness! such different approaches, and yet, so many of us can get pretty obsessive.

    Simon, I say give it until next year when you start that novel. You'll immerse yourself in the world. Just wait until the moment your characters walk into your dreams and start scolding you for being a turd. That kind of sucks, but it's exciting, too cuz they come alive.

    Jemi, Very wise of you, madam. Very wise. Perhaps I can learn some things from you guys. Although, to be honest, it's really only my family members that I badger into listening to me.

  10. I have this problem in spades. Fortunately I have the most fantastic fangirl friend (one of my youth group kids) who has read like a zillion of my drafts, begs to see every change and absolutely loves all my characters as much as I do. I highly recommend making a teen friend who loves to read and can obsess at length with you. It is the awesomest!

  11. I'm still very new to writing, so I haven't told a lot of people. My husband, my kids, my Dad, and one or two other people know what I'm doing. But when I'm online with other "writing folks" I love to babble on about my WIP.

  12. I love these lines: "And until that first rejection comes, you truly do believe in your work. You laugh at your own wit and cry at the misery of your characters--in essence, you marvel at your own skills." That is absolutely the truth. I had more confidence in my skills as a writer before I got a publishing contract.

  13. LOL Too funny. I may think those things, but I don't talk to people about them. I just know I'd get "the look" if I did. Very brave of you.

    Lynnette Labelle

  14. To be completely off topic, I have a much-deserved gift for you over at my blog, Swing on by to check it out.

  15. I just found your blog as a result of Laurel's gift.

    Thanks for your enthusiasm and honesty. I look forward to reading more.

  16. I don't talk to everyone about my writing but the hubs definitely gets an earful. We'll be sitting over dinner and all of a sudden I'll start asking random brainstorming questions about my book...I can get so excited that it can take over an entire conversation. You tend to get the weirdest looks from other people when you start talking about vampires, killings, etc. in public. I'm fairly certain that at least a few people have probably turned me in to the FBI, CIA or Homeland Security after overhearing a few of my conversations. :)

  17. Laurel, that's a brilliant idea...a young reader. Perfect! Now if I could just find my own fangirl! And yes, I will definitely check out your blog. I'm so excited. Geez, I feel honored. Can't wait to see what it is! Thank you!

    Melissa, I was the exact same way at first. Kept everything to myself. People just have a funny way of reacting sometimes when they find out you're writing a book. The first question is always, "so do you have a publisher yet?" *sigh. I don't blame you for wanting to keep it private.

    Tamara, thank you! That's very kind of you. It's sad, though, isn't it? How other's perceptions of our writing can taint our self confidence? It reminds me of the way children will at first wear anything they want and love it--purple cowboy boots with fringe--heck yeah! And then one day some little snot makes fun of you, and there go the cowboy boots. So sad.

    Elle, You're very welcome. And thank you for stopping by!

  18. Rhonda, that is way funny. FBI...hahahaha! I can imagine what non-writer followers on Twitter must think of some writerly conversations... But yes, I do the same thing to my poor husband. The first book, he knew every little detail, and when he would give me a blank-eyed look, I'd get upset because he didn't remember everything. This book, he knows nothing, and I still get upset when he doesn't know what I'm talking about.

  19. I, interestingly enough, don't do that--but it has nothing to do with the book not being on my mind. It most certainly is constantly on my mind. It has more to do with that I'm too busy thinking to actually remember that I'm supposed to talk when someone talks to me. Example:

    Friend: Alexandra, how are you?

    Me: (after about a minute of silence) Oh... what? Yes...

    Friend: Um, you ok?

    Me: Yeah yeah... WAIT OH MY GOD! I just figured it out!!! (grabs notebook, starts scribbling)

    The worst part is, I'm actually rude sometimes. People have been in the middle of a sentence and I've grabbed the notebook and started scribbling. Lol, nobody knows how to react to that. They either trail off awkwardly, or they doggedly try to finish their sentence. :-P

  20. Alexandra, that's hilarious. I, too, have done that! So glad I'm not the only one. Total one track mind. i promise I'll forgive you if you do that to me ever (as long as you promise to forgive me!) Haha!

  21. Ha! Oh god yes, I do this all the time. It's one of the reasons I blog, as you guys don't care about me blabbing about my book all the time. In fact you all encourage it.

    Found my way here from Frankie's blog. Nice to "meet" you!

  22. Rhiannon, nice to meet you, too! So good to meet another Obsesso. Until I started (finally!) communicating with other writers, I totally thought I was an anomaly. Yay! I'm normal!

  23. Ok, this is really embarrassing, but when my sister Stacey had her son I was in the middle of an intense round of edits. One of our characters is named Liam and I kept calling her new son Liam instead of Will. SO embarrassing. I just couldn't stop and she just kept correcting me. It was terrible.

  24. Haha! Oh my word, presumably you don't still call him Liam (or DO you?). Oh my, that's pretty funny. Poor Will. Your sister must have thought you were nuts. But don't beat yourself up. Book-babies leave little room for other thoughts. Not your fault!


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