the fear of next

there's a difference between a writer who has another novel in them and a writer who doesn't... {1Q84} something happens when you finish a novel.

all of the sudden, stories appear out of nowhere. a lady doing her make-up in the bathroom becomes a bereaved mother. a run-in with a two year old in a coffee shop creates a back story of a couple fighting for their marriage while clinging to their identity.

it's kind of magical, this world. almost as if anything can happen.

but it's also scary.

because something else happens after you finish a novel.

doubt starts creeping in and taking stock of what strength you have left. exhaustion looms and time once spent on writing is now spent huddled on the couch watching episodes of how i met your mother {don't judge}. the thought comes just as quietly as the stories finding you, but sooner or later it's the only thing you can hear:

will i be able to do it again? 

i've been thinking about this a lot lately. i've been wondering what it will take for me to sit in discipline long enough to squeak out another story. i've been praying, brainstorming, soaking in fiction.

basically, i've done everything but start.

this is where the danger lurks for writers.

i know the process. i get that writing takes practice and diligence and constant protection. so i keep breathing. i keep living. i keep writing - small stories and big ideas. i teeter on that fine balance of rest and laziness.

ann patchett says her stories simmer for a year or two at a time before she even places words on a page. stephen king also comes to the blank space with sacred respect. anne lamott relies on the release of words before even touching the editing and relishes in the poor sentence structure and lack of plot. sabrina ward harrison just wants her messiness to speak truth.

so many writers - so many nexts they've completed - despite the looming questions and doubt.

eventually i'll get there. i feel the stories beginning to demand more attention. the dialogue is pulsing and the characters are getting impatient. but i still wait. and right now, right this moment? it's less of a fear of beginning and more a fear of not doing well to prepare myself. so i'll get the bad stuff out in order to find the good. i'll follow a conversation until it finds the brick wall of boredom and then i'll keep pushing until the wall is nowhere to be seen.

because unlike some writers, i do believe i have more stories inside . there is so much more to be said - so much to explore. until then? i'll sit. i'll learn. i'll investigate and research and laugh at the possibilities because standing on the edge of another novel really is a magical place to find yourself.

Posted on January 2, 2012 .