The Inadvertent Creative Break

(The view from my new writing desk.)

I haven’t announced this or made a big deal of this, but it appears that I’ve been on some kind of quiet walk through the woods of my brain lately. It’s dark in here and there’s lots going on and I kind of don’t want to come out just yet.

This isn’t a formal break or a true sabbatical like one of my favorite authors, Sara Zarr, is taking (for inspiration, I highly recommend you read her blogs about her sabbatical if you aren’t reading already). No, this is nothing so well-thought-out and maturely faced.

It’s just that after finishing the last round of revisions for 17 & Gone in July, and my computer breaking and not getting replaced until late August, I discovered that I am not sure what book I want to write next. I have so many ideas for YA novels—and other kinds of novels, too—so it’s not for lack of ideas. It’s more: What should be next? Where does my heart want to live for the next year, two years? What would my editor and agent want of me? What would my readers want of me? But most of all—more than anything, I admit: What do I want of me?

I thought I knew, and I did have something almost ready, but my heart doesn’t want that to be the book anymore, so a proposal that was almost ready to get submitted has been set aside for the time being while I try my hand at something else to show my agent. I’d expected this would take me a week, maybe two, and look where we are now: the end of September.

Every time I think about this I go through a bout of panic, beating myself up for what I’ve done, and yet I can’t seem to speed it up, either. The new idea I’m working through needs time. It changes and shifts and emerges with new heads each day I work on it.

So I guess I’ve slowed to a crawl.

I think part of this is fear, of course. Fear of not having a new book under contract and worrying what will happen when I try. Fear of 17 & Gone coming out this spring. Fear.

But at the same time, it’s wanting to have my third YA novel be the right one. And—no matter how scared I am, no matter how nervous and knotted up and annoyed at my snail-like pace I become—the truth is, I’m not writing on command here. I want to write something I truly love and that’s important to me and speaks to me and speaks through me. And sometimes this just takes time.

So, privately, that’s what I’m dealing with. Publicly, you can find me in two places, if you’re so inclined.

This weekend I’ll be at KidLitCon in New York City. Maybe I’ll see some of you there.

And online, I wrote a guest blog in WORD for Teen’s “Characterize” series. Who did I write about? Ruby from Imaginary Girls. Hope you’ll go read my contribution.

One last thing to tell you: While I was writing this blog—admitting to my fear, and thinking of my brand-new idea in progress and wondering when I’ll be able to let it go—something pretty awesome happened.

Penguin Teen released its Spring 2013 sampler, and 17 & Gone is in it! Maybe this is telling me something… To not be afraid. To not make excuses. To not worry about spending the time finding the right idea and the right way to approach that idea.

To be brave.

So, bravely, I will share the link with you…

Do you want a free peek at 17 & Gone—among such amazing company with other Penguin Teen authors like Lindsay Ribar, Gayle Forman, Maureen Johnson, and Ruta Sepetys? Go read the opening chapters of my new novel, and I hope you like them!

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