“It’s like having a friend I can carry around in my pocket…”

I snatched this from Donya Lynne on Facebook, who was sharing it from someone else:

This is the part where the silence fills the room.

I can’t think of any time when I thought to myself, “I’m never writing another book,” but that may be because I take my sweet time.

The part that really grabs me is the last one: “I miss writing my book.”

There’s a feeling that comes with the completion of a major writing project—just the first draft— that’s difficult to compare to any other endeavor.

I still remember the day I finished the rough draft of Charlinder’s Walk. It was May 23rd, 2008. I don’t recall the exact time, but it was mid-afternoon when I wrote out the final sentence. (Which, incidentally, is still there but no longer the final sentence.) I knew there would be a wait of several months before I could start editing; the computer I was using at the time was deeply compromised and just functional enough for word processing, but for revising, I would need something a lot more stable, so I had to wait until I was safely home from my Peace Corps assignment and back to my trusty old desktop. (Which, incidentally, has long since passed on to Computer Heaven, but it was good enough to get the job done at the time.)

There I was, just about a month away from finishing up my time in Albania, my volunteering had atrophied down to a handful of tutoring students, I had to leave the house and pay by the hour to get online, and suddenly my big project that had kept me occupied since July of 2006 was all finished.

I recall spending a lot of time over the following several days, sort of wandering aimlessly around the house and wondering what the heck I was supposed to be doing with all this free time.

This is not particular to the isolation and boredom of a PC assignment; I had a similar experience with finishing my Harry Potter shipping essays while comfortably housed and employed here in Maryland. When I decided to write a shipping essay for HP fandom, it was not just a handful of paragraphs slapped together; it was Very Serious Business. After spending months working on a project, I would feel its absence when it was finished. You know how, in HP2, Tom Riddle very creepily quotes Ginny Weasley as having said that his diary was “like having a friend I can carry around in my pocket”?

Writing a book is like having a friend you can carry around in your bag. It’s a friend that always has time for you. It might not be the most cooperative companion, but it’ll go wherever you go. When you finish writing the book, that friend is no longer able to hang out with you. True, the rough draft isn’t the end, but there’s a lag time between the rough draft completion and the beginning of revision, and that lag time is the most bizarrely empty time in the life of a writer. Also, when you do start revising, the relationship between writer and book radically changes tone. In my experience, a book under revision is less like a friend and more like a highly intelligent but badly behaved child who needs a lot of attention before he’s presentable in polite company.

On that day in May of 2008, I had some books to read from the volunteer library, and that helped fill up the hours, but they didn’t fill the absence. I’d also read books while writing the novel; I read the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy for the first time, The Prince of Tides, Wicked, Julie & Julia, and others. There were a couple of books that I saved up as a reward for finishing the rough draft, but they didn’t really alleviate that feeling of, “Holy shit. That just happened.”

It’s been too long since I had that experience. In the years between finishing the first draft and self-publishing, I also wrote the rough draft of User Assembly, which remains very rough, and began planning Fait Accompli, but that’s neither here nor there. There’s been a lot of “life gets in the way” in the ensuing years. This graphic has started me thinking about how nice it would be to finish another book. I’ve been sick this week, which has sapped my concentration, and I have a hectic weekend coming up, so I don’t expect much in terms of productivity. However, Fait Accompli and Book 4 are still at the “good friends in my bag” stage. I’d like to stop taking them for granted and spend more time with them.