For the last week or so, I've been in an odd mood and I couldn't figure out what was the matter. Life is basically good: the book has sold well enough to warrant another print run; I've turned in my next manuscript; and now I have that much-anticipated free time I've been craving to catch up on my reading and relax.
Instead, I've been . . . well, restless. I am reading, but I always do that; as for relaxing, I'm not enjoying it as much I thought I would. Of course, this free time is limited and so I called a good friend who also happens to be a writer and mentioned that I thought I might need Prozac. She laughed and said, "Do you feel depressed?"
"Yes, kind of. Not exactly sad, but just . . . you know, blah. And the worst part is, I'm guilty about it. So many writers out there are fighting every day to get published. I feel like an ungrateful cur. Why can't I just enjoy it?"
"You have writer's empty nest syndrome," she replied. "We all get it after the book comes out and we turn in the next one. You've let your babies go out into the world and you're at sixes and nines over it. The only cure I know of is to start a new project. ASAP."
Now, let me just say that I've never referred to my books as "babies." I've heard other writers use the term and that's fine, but personally, I can't do it. Books are words on paper: they are not flesh and blood beings. If they get lost or misplaced or stolen, I can always buy or print out another. But as I considered my friend's words I started to wonder. I was feeling "sixes and nines-ish", as though something was missing from my life. I've been writing steadily since I sold these two books early last year, first with the revisions to The Last Queen and then cutting the next one. And in between, I had copy edits, marketing plans, interviews on my blog; in short, rarely a moment to spare. Sure, I caught a movie and went out to dinner with my partner and lived, but I always knew in the back of my mind that The Book was waiting. I must have thrived on the deadlines without realizing it, because now, without any, I was bewildered.
"It's a sickness unique to writers," my friend explained. "We aren't ourselves if we're not kvetching or rhapsodizing over our latest creation. We're Frankenstein. We must stimulate our brain daily or perish."
Just as an experiment (no pun intended) I finally went to my desk - now cleared of the atom-bomb explosion of papers and open books that comprised my last manuscript revision - and took out the spiral-bound notebook where I outline upcoming projects. The outline of my next novel is there. I read it. I then pulled out the research books I'll need and ordered them on the shelf I reserve for books that I'll need while writing. I did all this rather tentaively, thinking as I did, "Am I nuts? I just finished a manuscript and haven't even heard back from my agent or editor yet. I should be catching up on Netflix."
Then I hurried from my study and made dinner. As I cooked, I felt at ease. Relaxed. I felt . . . like me again. I had to chuckle. My friend was right. I'm just not myself if I don't have a book brewing. It doesn't actually matter whether I've started physically writing it; the ideas have to be percolating , the words disentangling and arranging themselves like threads on the loom. I must know that soon, I will start to write. And if I do, I'm okay.
So much for free time.