Obsession is not a bad word

The rewrite of DISTILLATION is complete – for now. Since early spring I have been doggedly reworking my first novel.

I set out to make DISTILLATION the novel I had really wanted to write all along (though it took me a while to admit to myself just what I really wanted.) This time I was going to make it pop in a huge way – make it magic, make it romantic, make it gothic. I think I succeeded. Summer 2011 is coming to a close and I have had a fabulous ride reworking this book. I am too in love with it, which I know is dangerous, but it has been the greatest adventure. Not only do I think I made my book better, I learned a lot about myself.

But here’s the thing. I have spent most of my summer obsessively writing. When I wasn’t writing I was listening to music (the same songs over and over and over) lost in the world of my characters. My imagination was on fire. I was channelling them. I was having trouble eating. I wasn’t sleeping. I would get up at four and start writing again. I was euphoric. I felt like I was on drugs but there was no crash. Not once have I suddenly dropped down and said – this sucks – why am I doing this? My poor husband must be jealous, I am so enamored with my characters, I have to give him credit though. He has listened to me go on and on about ghosts and witches, romance and peppermint, souls and eternity. He has really supported me through this obsessive roller coaster.

And now it’s done. I have to write curriculum for school. I should be doing that right now in fact, but here I am. Strangely, I am not sad or grumpy. I am still happy and even when I am back in the classroom, I know my characters are there waiting for the next chapter to be written.

Recently, an article about Kathryn Stockett’s ‘The Help’ came across the Twittersphere. It talks about how long it took her to write the book, how many rejections she got, how her friends said things like: “How do you keep yourself from feeling like this has been just a huge waste of your time?” Eventually, after 40+ rejections, she started lying to her friends about what she was doing on the weekends. “The truth was,” she says, “I was embarrassed for my friends and family to know I was still working on the same story, the one nobody apparently wanted to read.” She became increasingly obsessed, going away for weekends to be alone and edit, editing even as she was in labor.

I really related to this article when, last weekend, I declined hanging out by a lake with friends to stay home alone and edit for twelve hours straight. It made me feel a lot better knowing that at query # 61, Stockett finally got an agent and now look where her book is.

I have a long way to go before I meet her record, and her success, but at this point, I am thankful for the pleasures of obsession.