February 1 was a significant day for me (and not because it’s the start of my birthday month, though I hope it proves lucky). It’s the day I began to query agents about my novel, Maharishiville. Which means my wonderful editor feels the story is ready for publication. Which means I finally worked on those revisions she gave me last April when she said I was close, very close, like 95% there.
Back then, I’d felt I was getting close because I’d gathered a few of what we writers refer to as “good rejections.” But something was missing and I wasn’t sure what it was. I was published in nonfiction but new to novels, so I turned to the professional editor for help. And, thankfully, she shed light on the solution. I agreed with her suggestions wholeheartedly, and the changes weren’t even that complicated.
Why, then, did it take me six months to get around to making them?
The easy answer (not the real answer, mind you) was, I was busy. I said yes to co-coordinating this writers conference. And yes to co-authoring this nonfiction book. And yes to a big copywriting project. I said yes to just about anything that captured my interest other than the book. I even started this graduate program. Seriously, I went back to Grad School (and it wasn’t even for creative writing). I kept saying I wanted to revise the novel, but I was doing everything but that. And eventually, my plate overloaded, something had to give.
September found me overwhelmed and unhappy, with no one to blame but myself. And then I happened upon this gem of a book, written by award-winning mystery author Nancy Pickard and therapist Lynn Lott. The title may be The Seven Steps on the Writer’s Path, but the message is appropriate for anyone endeavoring to create anything (be it a manuscript or a change in life).
The first thing I learned was that unhappiness was Step One, and it was necessary and should be welcomed. (Well, so far, so good for me.) But I had trouble with Step Two: Wanting. A lot of people do. We’re taught that wanting is greedy and not attractive (I already have so many blessings in my life, who am I to want more?). As instructed, I labeled a piece of paper “I WANT” and began to list things without thinking. It became very obvious that what I wanted, more than all my other interests, was to write novels. I knew I reached Step Three, Commitment, when I changed my daily schedule (novel revisions began at 6 a.m. every weekday) and my job description (I am no longer a Copywriter, an identity I’d been clinging to because I was successful at it; I am now solely a Writer). It became clear that my too-busy-to-revise antics of the prior six months had been a form of Step Four: Wavering. I got close to my novel goal and I got scared. Maybe of failing. Or maybe of succeeding. (I think, actually, it was a little of both.) But learning from the book, I was able to Let Go (Step Five) — of expectations, self-doubt, comparisons, etc. — and become happily Immersed (Step Six) in my novel again.
I incorporated the revisions (they took less than three months once I started!), had my editor re-read it and made a few more minor adjustments. And then it was ready. I’d arrived at Step Seven: Fulfillment.
Then, when it was time to write that query letter, wouldn’t you know it, I started getting “too busy” again. Luckily, I now know that we circle back through the seven steps over and over again. It’s just part of the process. But if we can recognize it, we’ll move through the steps that much faster. So I only stalled for a few days, and then yesterday I wrote the email. And I hit SEND. And then an agent emailed me back requesting three chapters.
It was a great start to February.