Not-Writing Till I Burst

I haven’t been writing. I haven’t chosen the two books I’ll be working on this year yet—but I will say that one dire, shining possibility is staring me in the face now, and my agent has met this possibility, and he made me happy (don’t be coy: thrilled) by liking it too, and if I hear the word, “Go!” I’m leaping. That would be our #1 contender for YA. I’m hopeful, but not sure if it’ll stick just yet.

The second book for my Big Year of I Want to Write Two Books Let’s See if I Can Do It (even if it overlaps a couple months into the next year, it will still count, won’t it?) aspires to be a tween/middle-grade novel and I spent all morning piecing together the idea for a contender who surprised me by a swirling twist of inspiration in a cab ride down in TriBeCa with a seat of Little Pie Company pies beside me and I am wondering now… is she the one? I’m not sure. Though maybe she could be.

So, though I was protesting the idea of taking a break between finishing Imaginary Girls and starting my next book—the idea of not-writing bristling me, the idea of not-writing making me feel like a big Fail Whale—I guess my brain took over and made me listen to this wisdom anyway.

I haven’t been writing. But I’ve been flooded with ideas, gearing myself up for the writing.

I had lunch with a publishing friend, and she mentioned how one particular comment from my “Bye-bye, Novel. What’s Next?” post seemed like such wise advice. And, ever since she brought it up, I’ve been coming back to that comment too:

And if a story is building up inside your head, make it wait.

Write inside your head until you can’t stand it anymore, and then the story will burst out.

L.K. Madigan, you are a wise woman.

Yes, she gives great advice. And it’s happening. Because, truth is, I haven’t had the time to write. I’ve been juggling freelance deadlines, and to-do lists, (and a bout of anxiety over finishing a book maybe), and worry, and I just took another freelance project, and I’m getting our taxes ready for our appointment next week… and it’s funny how, when you can’t write, you NEED to more than ever.

Tonight I needed a break, so I read. I had to stop reading YA novels while writing Imaginary Girls because I needed Chloe’s voice to be crystal-clear in my mind, without any intrusion, but I’ve decided it’s okay to read now.

Imagine me on the couch, picking up a book I’ve been telling myself I wasn’t allowed to read for months. It’s called If I Stay by Gayle Forman. Fast-forward two hours or however long it took to reach the final pages when I am choking on sobs, tears running down my cheeks, eyes glued to the page, riveted with emotion by what was happening. I reached the last page. A certain line on that page broke me open and out loud I gasped in surprise. I finished. I closed the book. My eyes had so filled up with tears I couldn’t see the room through the blur.

E had fallen asleep on the couch beside me, but all of a sudden I was leaping away, leaving the book on the table and getting some distance from it—so affected by its pages I couldn’t touch the book anymore.

E sat up, alarmed. Did something happen? he said all bleary. What’s wrong?

I just read an incredible book, I said. That’s what happened.

How lucky we are to be writers. To get this chance to reach—with these words we’ve got jumbled up in us, the ones we scribble in cabs or street corners or stairwells or between jobs and life and taxes—to reach toward that moment of having someone leap up off the couch, disturbing her partner, hands to her chest so her heart stops thumping, almost choking, and say, “I just read an incredible book.”

Imagine the possibility of that.

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