Monday, December 12, 2011

What's the rush?

My dear friend and writing-life coach, Jean, asked me an important question last week. I was in the midst of one of my work/life/family/writing balance breakdowns (which happen every 14 days like clockwork), struggling to figure out how I was going to do my day job, keep my house non-condemnable, get decent meals cooked, love on my kids, AND finish this draft.

After all, I had promised it to my first round CPs at the beginning of November. Then the beginning of December. And here I was, staring at December 9th on the calendar, and wondering how it had taken me five and a half weeks to finish a simple first-pass edit.

So I typed Jean a tear-filled email (I believe Gina was the one to get it about a month ago, you ladies are troopers) about the laundry and crumbs in the carpet and trash that needed to be taken out and bathtubs that needed to be bleached. And how it wasn't possible to do all the things that needed to be done AND hug my babies AND sleep AND get any writing done.

She wrote back a long email that showed that she heard what I was saying and that she sympathized, but what she really wanted to say was right there at the end:

"What's the rush?"

So that question stayed on my mind for several days, as the dear patient lady continued to correspond with me via novel-length email after novel-length email. After all, I know very well that I don't have an editor or even an agent to put me on deadline. (Believe me. I KNOW.) And I know that, as an unagented writer, it won't make a difference whether my project takes days, weeks, months, or even years longer to complete. So why should I rush?

verb (used with object)
5. to perform, accomplish, or finish with speed, impetuosity, or violence.

Okay. Well, I obviously shouldn't do that. We all know that an impetuously sent query (or a violently sent one, yeesh) is the kiss of death for a writer. But even at this stage of the game, I don't want to waste my CPs' time by sending them a hastily, haphazardly thrown together manuscript.

So, I asked myself again, "Whats' the rush?" (Because Jean is wise, you know.) 

I started to realize that it wasn't necessarily a sense of rush I felt, but a sense of drive. The feeling that I wouldn't be able to think about anything else, rest easy, or even breathe unless I made a least one little step every day on this draft.

I could convince myself that I'd be okay without writing a little bit every day, but after four or five days of ignoring ONE, I started to get mighty cranky, and resentful, and just generally down in the dumps. (Also my main character would start to scream at me, and you don't want to be near her when she's angry.)

What I learned from this was: I know there's no rush to finish any project, any time. But for me? There's definitely a rush when it comes to writing:

2. the immediate pleasurable feeling produced by a drug (as heroin or amphetamine)

Yep. My name is Leigh Ann Kopans, and I am a writing addict. 

What about you? Do you feel a sense of rush when it comes to your projects? Help me feel not-so-crazy down in the comments.


  1. It comes and goes for me. As the year is winding down, and I have yet to query anything this year (again!), I'm starting to feel a little panicky. Just this morning, I was thinking--when is Marie going to finish alphaing Carbry?, I need to work on Carbry, I need to change the first scenes, I need to call her and see where she is (I controlled myself, after all she doesn't need me bothering me when she is getting the kids off to school). And my heartbeat is skyrocketing, and I'm convinced that I'm a failure who is never going to query anything. But then I make myself step back and remember--so what if it take a few extra weeks or months?

    Although yesterday I was driving to work and this car swerved into my lane, and my first thought was: I can't die before I finish Carbry. How's that for addiction?

    I think it is just part of the game of loving something as much as you love writing. That love is a wonderful thing--it just has a sharp edge.

  2. @Heidi! I think we are cosmically connected, because pretty much the exact same thing happened to me. I was all, I really need to at least email this file to my CPs, in case I die and no one else has ever seen ONE. So...maybe it's common?

    I've never heard a more beautiful or accurate description of the love for writing - it is wonderful, and it does have a sharp, sharp edge.

  3. I just love this so much. :*) Everything boils down to finding the middle ground... a delicate combination of drive which keeps us going, but also patience which perfects the craft. You described this beautifully.

  4. This was lovely:) I've often described writing as a type of adrenaline rush like none other, and I'm so glad to hear someone else think of it in the same way. Great post!

  5. Jean is a wise one. I've neglected LYM for days on end, and get unfailingly anxious/resentful every time it happens. And like Heidi, I live in fear of dying before it's done! I swear to God, I made Dom promise me that if anything happens to me he'll e-mail my CP's and let them know I kicked the bucket. Isn't that awful?

    And about the house situation - I don't mean to sound condescending in any way when I say this, but my mom always had a rule that we could eat at the table and at the table ONLY, until we were old enough to not eat like slobs. That might help with your crumb situation. *HUGS*

  6. I have mini break downs on a regular basis because I am oberwhelmed. Between you and me I had one last week that almost resulted in me giving up writing and my blog. Luckily ky dear husband talked me down off that ledge.

    If you are crazy - then so am I :)

  7. yes, I feel the rush. actually, I want to be writing RIGHT NOW but I'm not. I deserve a good kick for that.

    I'd planned on having this draft finished MONTHS ago--like end of August. then end of October. then end of November. I'm still working on it. it's seriously frustrating, but at the same time, if I want to write, I don't really have the time to sit here angry at myself for not finishing. I didn't finish because I wasn't writing. if I'd just WRITE, I'd FINISH, and then I could give myself a pat on the back (and then rush into edits because I want it done by the end of December). glad to know I'm not the only one who sets up some crazy self-deadlines then feels angry when I can't achieve them.

  8. @Jean - Thanks, lady. It is a tough balance, that's for sure...

    @Lindsay - Thanks! Yeah, it's definitely like a drug.

    @G - Okay, so that makes three of us. And eating-at-the-table rules? In theory, they're practice...I pick my battles. :)

    @Krista - Oh, you have no idea how much better that makes me feel! The breakdowns are epic, and getting more frequent. It's really tough.

    @Jessica - "crazy self-deadlines then feeling angry when I can't achieve them" is EXACTLY what's happening. EXACTLY. So glad I'm not alone.


  9. I can relate to the grumpiness and feeling of wanting punch the people around me when I haven't written a word in days.. that's actually where I am right now. It's been THREE days, and it's killing me.

    I'm a much happier person when the writing is going well, and not that the words have to be amazing, though that's awesome too, but there just needs to be words.

    I had told myself that I would have my first half done by Christmas.. NOT HAPPENING.. so, so behind... sigh!

  10. I actually haven't written anything for months -- and there's plenty of guilt associated with that. But during short bursts that I can write, I fully sympathize with this. I agree that it's not a rush, but rather a drive. And it can be impossible to balance everything.

    Best of luck to you, though!

  11. I feel a sense of urgency every time I write something. I'm working on the final edits of my ms and want to finish so I can finally send it out.

    I can't rush, but part of me wants it to end so I can move on.

    I understand your pain.

  12. I get the same feeling. The rush pushes me, sometimes consumes me. I have no deadlines except those I make for myself. You're not crazy. Just a writer who loves to write. :)

  13. Oh, me too, me too. At first, I lull myself to sleep by thinking out scenes between my chars, usually lovey-dovey scenes. My husband likes to tease me whenever I smile while writing, by issuing the No Smiling! command. I'd rather stay at home most days and hang out with my chars than go out with my friends. So yeah, I totally get you. Oh! And I saw you got a full bid or something like that (not entirely sure what it means) in the Bakers Dozen auction!! Way to go!

  14. And that, "At first" should really say "At night". Not sure where that First came from. Sneaky first...

  15. Haha! LOVE this! I sometimes find that I'm ornery. For no apparent reason. About stupid things. And sometimes overly emotional tags along. My hubby will ask what's wrong, and I have to answer with a "Nothing. Seriously, nothing. I'm just ornery." I've learned that when I'm this way, it's because I HAVEN'T BEEN WRITING. So... you're not crazy. You just don't want your family to have to live with your ornery side. It's good for them when you write. :)

  16. @Cristina - Yep! Three days is about my max too....Hang in there. (Actually, saw on your blog you're making progress...)

    @Emy - WOW, months! It's gonna be amazing when you let all that creative energy out....

    @ladonna - I totally understand that rush to get to the next project. It's like constantly warring impulses for creative types, I guess.

    @Christine - Sometimes, 'you're not crazy' is the most amazing thing you can hear. THANK YOU. <3

    @Kris - Ahahaha, the dreamy plotting-daydream look. Yeah, I get it too. And I wish people wouldn't try to interact with me when I have it. I always want to scream, "Can't you see I'm thinking about my book???"

    @Peggy - It's SO important that we learn that about ourselves, I think. And it's a BIG bonus that I can rationalize my writing with, "It's good for my family when I ignore them to write." <3

    THANKS EVERYONE for your comments! Love you all.

  17. LOVE this post. Love it.

    Yes, your coach is quite wise!

    I too, suffer from the DRIVE. Partly because I began writing before being pregnant with my youngest, who's now 9. Partly because my last two books have gotten THISCLOSE in NYC and my agent thinks this book is fabulous. I want the call, I want the book in the bookstore, I WANT. And want is a huge factor in drive :) Keep sneaking in those words, they'll all add up!