Tag Archives: creative writing

The Writing Process in Progress

Celebrating the Completion of the First Draft

Writing a novel is like being pregnant. You can write whatever you want without anyone judging you just as you can eat whatever you want without anyone judging you. People ask with interest about the progress of your novel just as people ask about the stage of a pregnancy. “Oh, I’m halfway through the first draft,” you say, which is the equivalent of saying, “I’m in the start of my second trimester. The queasiness is over. The fatigue is gone. And I feel great!”

The closer you get to the finish, however, things change. People become annoyed by how many social obligations you miss and how distracted you seem to be because you’re caught up in another world. Just as at the last stage of pregnancy, you become irritable and uncomfortable, unable to eat without heartburn and unable to find a comfortable position to sleep because you are so big you feel like a beached whale. You want to finish the book; give birth to the baby. Have the excitement and the misery end.

But once you type, “The End,” the elation and relief ebb away. Anxiety and depression sometimes follow. All those months spent on high alert, jotting down notes in the middle of dinner, waking up in the middle of the night hearing your narrator’s voice, suddenly evaporate. The adrenalin rush crashes, and suddenly you find yourself deflated and empty. The road that stretches before you is miles and miles of toil and work. The baby has been born. Now the anticipation has been replaced with the real work of the frequent feedings, diaper changes, and mothering to raise the child into a good human being. Just the anticipation of writing a novel is replaced with the real work of editing, publishing, and marketing.

Finishing a novel is a lot like giving birth. You have the same feelings of fear and anxiety, elation and relief once you get to the final chapter and type “The End.”

I always go through postpartum depression whenever I finish a novel. All those weeks leading up to the finish, full of adrenaline and excitement, working non-stop around the clock between my everyday life and the life of my fictional world suddenly deflates once the book has been written. Gone is a whole half of what I have been engaged in, and the lost is enormous.

Now I wake up and glance at the clock and wonder who will greet me when I rush to the computer. Sure, I could start the edit or the next book in the series and plunge right back into the world, but I prefer to work with breaks. Sometimes the breaks stretch too long and suddenly I am stranded in what would look to others as writer’s block. Most times, however, I engage in smaller, more manageable projects to keep my creative juices flowing. This time I feel the need to return to my painting, which has been sorely neglected during this last novel.

Sure, there are other tasks that involve writing: the one-sentence pitch, the back copy blurb, the marketing materials that will be printed on bookmarks and postcards and press releases and online in blogs and forums. But that’s different. It is the business side of writing, and it is very different than being immersed in a separate world where things are happening, stakes are high, and emotions even higher.

The postpartum phase of finishing a novel is a natural part of the writing process. It does not have to end in depression, although mine always tend to. I think it’s because I immerse myself deeply in my work and experience “The End” as a loss rather than a celebration. Joy comes from writing, not having written. If I am not writing, I am not a writer. I’m only a part of who I am, and I think that adds to the sense of loss.

Poetry…a Priceless Gift


My daughter hates when I write about her. But I’m so proud of her. I can’t help it.

Rose has always been good at math. She intuitively understands abstract concepts and algebraic formulas. But she has always struggled with language arts. She was slow to talk, slow to read, and slow to grasp the structure of a sentence.

A couple of years ago I purchased Rip the Page! by Karen Benke as a gift for my daughter. I had the pleasure and the privilege of meeting Karen at Hedgebrook, a writer’s retreat on Whidbey Island in Puget Sound in the winter of 1997. Karen is a creative writing expert and an award-winning writer. She is the author of the poetry collection, SISTER, and teaches as a Poet in the School. She also offers creative writing workshops for children and adults. Although our busy schedule conflicted with the workshops Karen offered, the book is written to mirror a writing workshop. Rose dove into the workbook-style writing manual designed specifically for children. By the time she finished the book, she had improved her writing skills and increased her confidence as a writer.

She was so confident of her writing skills that she wrote a poem for me on Mother’s Day.

Hummingbird

Mom, you are like a colorful hummingbird
Your soft wings rub against me and comfort me when I am down
Your singing is so beautiful it comforts me more

You wake me up at sunrise with your singing
Then you sit on a branch and watch me
You will never leave my side
Soon I am walking on earth and you are flying right above me

You watch me move ever so softly
You are one of the closest people in my life
You understand me like how you understand the wind

Mom, you give me strength
You are always there for me
You are very special to me
You are my mom and I LOVE YOU WILL ALL MY HEART

After reading the poem, my eyes brimmed with tears of joy and pride. I know my daughter could not have written the poem without Karen’s wonderful instructive writing guide.

If you have a child who loves to read and write, Rip the Page! is a gift that will give back to you just as it has for me through my daughter’s poem.

Watch a video of Karen Benke promoting Rip the Page!