Last night I settled onto the couch, with the cat nestled happily on my chest, and started reading Sarah Jio’s latest novel, Blackberry Winter. I love the structure of Sarah Jio’s novels because of the dual narrative; each book juxtaposing present day with vivid memories of the past. I can’t think of another author with a greater talent for world building. Sarah’s descriptions of Seattle and Bainbridge Island are so engrossing, you can practically smell the saltiness of Puget Sound. But more than anything else, I love reading for pleasure because it reminds me why I write.
Since returning to full-time work, my blog (in addition to my household chores) has seriously suffered. There are takeout boxes littering the floor of my apartment and chopsticks glued to the coffee table in the living room, the remnants of last night’s coconut curry beef udon lingering in the air. I haven’t deep cleaned in over a month (shhh). I can’t even bring myself to look at the stack of bills sitting next to me, some envelopes haphazardly torn open, others glaring at me as if they contain anthrax.
I don’t know how authors hold down jobs, care for their children and still manage to pump out a word count in the quiet hours before dawn, or after everyone else has gone to sleep. In the past three years, the period when I completed my two novels, I never worked more than 30 hours a week. Writing in the afternoon wasn’t my biggest challenge. Getting my novels out there was.
Both of my books are still sitting in folders on my desktop. Each novel has been polished and revised too many times to count (though the second is in a closer state of “readiness” than the first). What’s preventing me from querying another agent? From submitting to a small press? From going on Smashwords, CreateSpace, Lulu, or any other self-publishing site and hitting “upload” ?
Part of me feels that it won’t be possible to simultaneously hold down a job, plan a wedding and publish a book. But another part of me wonders if maybe that’s not the problem. Maybe after two novels, I still haven’t written my best work, and I don’t want anyone to read my writing until I do. After finishing Blackberry Winter this morning, I asked myself if I could do better.
Have I yet reached my personal best? I don’t know. I don’t think so.
Now I have ideas swirling around in my mind for a third book. A book with more layers to it than my previous women’s fiction. The wooden floors beneath me can stay covered in cat hair for a few more hours. What I need to do now is to write those ideas down.
So to my friends in the blogosphere: don’t stop reading, don’t stop writing, and don’t forget who you are. Yes, YOU, the only person capable of telling your story.