I submitted a first draft of my new novel to my agents this week. They haven’t read it yet – nobody has, aside from me – so I have spent the last few days floating around, buoyed by a sense of accomplishment (another one!) but still tethered by the usual authorial anxieties (am I nuts?). It’s a strange netherworld, this state of having a finished story but without response, without the animation that comes with the engagement of another’s consciousness. It’s like the hour before the guests arrive for a party. Or telling a joke to yourself.
I have never been one of those writers who is indifferent to the concept of audience, a storyteller who is “only writing for myself.” I’ve always felt this view was either a) disingenuous, or b) sad, or c) weird. Even if one never seeks publication, even if the work is meant to be private, the most intimate journal or confession, the notion of engagement is alive during its composition. There is (it seems to me) always an “other” sitting over your shoulder in the writerly exercise, even if this reader is only some fractured aspect of yourself, or someone who will never actually read it, or an ever-observing God.
That’s not really the point I started out wanting to make here. So what is that point? Something along the lines of This never gets old.
This new novel will be my sixth. Sixth! It is a number even more surprising than the reminder of one’s age (particularly when a 4 or higher is the first digit). You might think there’d be an Auto Pilot kicking in by now, a professional coolness that diminishes the virginal excitements that came with finishing a big project back in the Early Days. But here I am, giddy as a teenager with a beer buzz. I’m a little terrified, a little exhausted, a little sentimental at soon having to say farewell to the characters who came to me this time around.
Though of course I’ll be seeing them all again soon enough in the Second Draft. And the Third. And the Fourth…