Momentum

Today was the sixth consecutive day on which I devoted an hour to writing the sequel to State v. Claus. If you’re a disciplined writer with an orderly writing practice, a six-day stretch may not sound terribly impressive, but trust me: you should be impressed. I can’t recall now when I first started writing the story that became State v. Claus. I know a version existed prior to 2010, because that’s when I got my current computer; among the documents transferred from the former machine is an 18-page story entitled “Mrs. Claus. ” In the summer of 2012, I worked on it as part of Camp NaNoWriMo. Practically nothing I wrote that summer survived to the final draft. A year later, as part of my decision to take my writing seriously, I dusted off the draft, determined to shape it into an actual novel—except that rather than writing, I delved into research about prison life, criminal law, and reindeer. Research is a marvelous way to procrastinate. It feels so productive. That was 2013. There were periods over the next several years when I worked faithfully on the book, and other times when I nearly forgot it existed. What finally got me going was the procrastinator’s best tool: a deadline. In 2014, I took a novel-writing class from author Susan Schoenberger, whose first novel had won the Faulkner-Wisdom Creative Writing Competition. Somewhere around 2017, I decided that I wanted to submit State v. Claus to the Faulkner-Wisdom. This, I felt, would help me to land an agent. With a submission deadline in May, 2018, I had no choice but to buckle down. I submitted my manuscript the night before the deadline. I spent the summer of 2018 researching agents. In August, 2018, State v. Claus was named a finalist for the Faulkner-Wisdom. For the better part of the next two years, I edited the book and occasionally queried agents. Finally, in the summer of 2020, I admitted to myself that I didn’t want to devote the next three years to begging first an agent, and then a publisher, to like my work enough to take it on. I was ready to publish my book. And so, as readers of this blog know, I plunged into the world of independent publishing. For several months, I devoted substantial time and energy to this new venture. On October 30, 2020—after a gestation period of more than 10 years—State v. Claus greeted the world. By the time my book was launched, I was completely fried. In November and December, as I tried to push myself to market my book, I became painfully aware of how much I should have done earlier except that I couldn’t because I was researching covers and choosing fonts and doing a thousand other things I hadn’t realized somebody would need to do, and that somebody was me. On top of which were the holidays and my health issues—all of which meant that writing a new book was the last thing I cared about. Mind you, I had some ideas. On Christmas afternoon, my mother and I sat in her kitchen, hashing out ideas and possible plot lines. I left full of energy and enthusiasm. The problem, as any writer knows, is that ideas aren’t worth anything until they’re written down. 2020 ended, and 2021 began, and not a word of the new book existed outside my exhausted little brain. Worse, they were only ideas. I hadn’t a clue how to translate these abstract notions into dialogue and action. In mid-January, after having cheerfully assured people who loved State v. Claus that I was indeed working on a sequel, I sat down to work on said sequel. January’s efforts consisted of two short scenes and a handful of scribbled notes. I assured myself that “working on a sequel” could take many forms, but in truth, I was beginning to worry that I might not be able to pull this off. Then came last Wednesday. I got up, went about the morning’s business, and paused. Instead of taking my breakfast and heading into the office, I went to the living room. I picked up the Surface and the lap desk. I settled into my bedraggled, beloved recliner. I opened a new Word document. And for an hour, I wrote. The next morning, I did it again. Ditto the morning after that, and the next and the next. This morning, I awoke to the issue of scheduling a covid vaccine. Phone calls, emails, websites. Lots of chatter on Facebook about what did or didn’t work. My morning vanished almost before I knew it. After much effort, I managed to schedule an appointment, which required lots more Facebook chatter. When I finally paused, it was past 2:00 and I hadn’t written. I could have called the day a loss and gone on to billable work, but I didn’t. Something in me knew that to lose this daily momentum would mean losing more than a single day. If I had an excuse today, I’d find one again tomorrow, and another the day after. The only way to keep working on this book was to keep working on the book. So I made my lunch, and I took it into the living room. The cats were nonplussed at my presence; like the dogs in Rebecca who knew to go to the morning room rather than the parlor, my cats frowned upon a break in their routine. However, since we have no Mrs. Danvers to hover with a menacing air, the cats and I settled in for an hour’s writing. It’s worth noting that I considered devoting my writing hour to this blog post. I chose not to for one simple reason: I didn’t want to break my momentum. Six days devoted to the book is, for me, a true streak. It may not be impressive to those like Stephen King who write every day without fail, but for me, it’s an accomplishment. I know the day will come when I’ll have to break the streak, when the phone will herald some emergency that will require me to drop everything, including my book. Last night, I received warning of an impending crisis, one I can do nothing to manage preemptively. When the day comes, I will likely need to reorganize my world, at least for the short term. I cannot change that. But between now and then, I can write.

8 thoughts on “Momentum

  1. A six day streak is nothing to scoff at, and it could very well be the thing that kickstarts your lifetime of daily writing. I myself started small and ended up keeping the daily writing habit for years now (except maybe a couple weeks here or there in between novels). Wishing you the best!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow! Congratulations! Very impressive indeed. Although I’m not sure that picture of the runner fits with your blog? I’m not sure what photo of persistent effort would do? Perhaps Sisyphus and the rock?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Way to go, Jo. So impressed that you’re building on the publication of your book. I agree with you, ‘ideas aren’t worth anything until they’re written down,’ and that takes effort. (Can we pinch that for the writers’ workshop’ in our FB group?) Keep up the good work and the momentum. You are doing great.

    Liked by 1 person

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