My novel, The Songs We Hide, has now been “out in public” for almost seven months. I worked long and hard to get to this point, and certainly I’m glad to be here. What I hadn’t counted on, though, is how much of my time would be consumed in publicizing the book (or trying to, anyway). These seven months, plus the three or four that preceded them, have been full of emailing, driving, making phone calls, arranging presentations, giving the presentations, and figuring out things I didn’t know how to do, like setting up online author pages and operating a Square Reader. These things were all stuffed in around being available to my family.
And what about writing the next novel, which people keep asking me about? Well, it’s frustrating how often that’s been set aside. In these busy months, when I’ve been able to carve out a little time, I’ve revised chapters I’d written previously. But I didn’t have the mental bandwidth for new writing.
Until a few weeks ago, when I suddenly found myself with open days. Having finished revising and editing the existing sixteen chapters of the new novel, it was now time to tackle Chapter Seventeen. I sat down at a coffee shop with a capuccino, a lot of paper, and a pencil. I made notes and formed somewhat of an outline. Over the next two weeks, I wrote the whole chapter the way I used to: longhand, crossing out countless phrases or whole paragraphs, scribbling corrections in the margins. There is something humanizing about the patience of longhand and the absence of electronics. Often I took the pile of papers to a cafe where I could look out the window at the bay or autumn trees. When I finished drafting out the chapter, I typed it neatly (and electronically) into Word. But after these months of emails and social media, it was good to have done the first-draft creativity simply with my hands and a pen.
A few days ago I sat down by a sunlit window with a glass of wine, and I hand-wrote the notes for Chapter Eighteen. It felt right. My husband, who is an architect, tries out every idea with a pencil in his hand: that is what feels natural to him. I get it. Tomorrow I’ll probably go back to efficiency and draft out Chapter Eighteen on my laptop. But I’m glad I wrote Chapter Seventeen the messy, quiet way, the way I worked when I first fell in love with writing.