When I started writing novels, I thought the question I needed to be ready to answer was, “What is your book about?” I learned by experience that even when an interested person asks that question, I have about 30 seconds to answer. So I’ve gotten better about developing succinct responses that are fair both to my story and to the reader’s curiosity.
The question I was not prepared for is, “How long does it take you to write a book?” It comes up surprisingly often. I’m still working on the answer to that one. I’m sure I overthink it.
Am I supposed to calculate the hours I spend? That’s one answer.
What about if I could write straight through every day—which I can’t? Then maybe I could measure in weeks.
What about if I am expecting the writing process to be interrupted by editing rounds on another project on its way to publication? I am grateful that at this point in my writing career, this is almost always the case. (Right now, I’m working on a new manuscript but also have to factor in editorial comments on Taken for English, due out in February.) Now maybe the answer is measured in months.
The thing is, though, that in my heart of hearts, I always wish I could write a book in a few weeks. That’s not because I have unreasonable expectations for myself (well, okay, maybe a little), but because when I’m in the middle of a story and it feels consuming, I wish I could write straight through and not have to think about anything else. I get really good at looking past housework and letting the cupboards go bare. Dinner is whatever looks like it might be growing fuzzy green stuff tomorrow or will take under two minutes to prepare.
Inevitably, with each new manuscript, I reach a point where I have to stop being manic!
And it’s not just about housework and meals. It’s about balance. If I think I don’t have time to go watch my son play on the church softball team, something’s wrong. If I’m fueling myself with quick-cooking packaged food, something is out of whack. If I cut corners on movement in my days for the sake of another 1,000 words, something is out of balance. If I hesitate to ask how someone is because I’m afraid the answer will be time-consuming or require action of me, something is skewed.
I still love the thrill of being caught up in a new manuscript. I still yearn for the satisfaction of a job well done. But even more, I crave the fulfillment of a well balanced life. So “as fast as possible” does not have to be the answer to everything, including how long it takes me to write a book.
Nutrition. Movement. Relationships. Emotions. Spirituality. Service. Whether you are a writer or not, you probably get out of balance too.