Even writing about writing a manuscript seems to be an impossible endeavour some days, like today.
I change out of my pyjamas and into sweatpants, and I might even slap on a bra to give the illusion that I’m a working professional. Except my hair is wild and I haven’t brushed my teeth yet and I’m so damned tired from so many sleepless nights due to a damaged rotator cuff that I haven’t sought medical help for, because I’m afraid my insurance won’t cover the physical therapy and I’ll have to go back to Canada. And my stomach is growling as I wait for money to be deposited into my account so I can finally get some groceries. I ate my roommate’s Oreos for breakfast. I dumped out my coin purse and scrounged up enough Euros to buy a second-hand copy of The Hare With the Amber Eyes at Saint George’s Bookstore.
The writer’s life, amiright?
Being a writer was a lot easier when I was in high school and I didn’t have Facebook distractions and I lived under my parents’ roof and I wasn’t so beaten down by failed career goals.
But I do it anyway because it’s the only thing I ever wanted to do.
This morning I penned the final editing touches on my first complete manuscript. A YA novel set in Newfoundland. Obviously I won’t divulge further details just yet, but now comes the process of finding an agent or approaching a publisher head on. And while many of you might think it’s taboo to talk about a book before it’s even been read by anyone, I decided I’d take you along on the journey with me. Even if I don’t get anywhere, I’ll self publish. “Self publish” makes me want to cringe sometimes because I never imagined I’d go that route. I’m not a marketer or a businessperson. But sometimes it’s a route that works. So here we go.
I started out under the guidance of Leigh Shulman at The Future Is Red. We had worked together at Matador Network and so I knew she’d be a great mentor, and she was. But then I got accepted into Humber’s writing correspondence program and earned a scholarship to work under the guidance of Olive Senior, a Canadian author.
When it’s your first time putting together a manuscript, it really does help to have someone else’s encouragement.
I Skyped with Olive last month about what to do next. She recommended me for a certificate of distinction at Humber, which makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Sometimes, sometimes we just need affirmation that we can do this. That I’m not another overzealous contestant who thinks he/she is mega-talented but will get booed off the stage by the judges. A small nudge out the door and a pat on the back.
If you’re wondering how I did it, here’s the secret formula to creativity:
There is none.
For me, I get up around 9 AM. I make some coffee and sit down to read for an hour or so. Reading helps put me in the right mindset. It relaxes me and makes me start thinking about words and storytelling before I log online and am distracted by more sad news stories and offensive Facebook memes.
And then I open Word and start clacking away. I had the seed of an idea before I sat down and started writing this current manuscript; I didn’t really know where it’d go. So the story developed as I wrote it. Sometimes I say the story comes out of my fingertips at the keyboard rather than my own brain, but maybe the keys unlock the inner-workings of my mind.
But then sometimes I’m awake in bed at 2 AM and my mind is racing so I crack open my computer again and I start writing from there.
There’s never a right time, there’s just a time.
Forcing myself to sit at that computer everyday was like confronting every greatest fear I’ve ever known. It was facing my own insecurities and sitting in front of a blank page and willing myself to write something, anything. Before self-doubt would grab me and turn me away forever. Where before, as a kid, I’d tackle the task with sheer devotion and love and passion and pure self belief…now I panic and wonder what the hell I’m doing, and whether or not I should give up entirely and look elsewhere for a career.
I did eventually finish that first round of manuscript writing, though. In a café in St. John’s near my apartment, and then I cried about it. Because I did it, even if it’s a terrible manuscript and I’ll get dozens of shitty Goodreads reviews, I finished something. Maybe nothing will come from it and I’ll never earn money from it but there it is, done, I suppose.
Some days I get so discouraged by the flood of emails in my inbox pitching shitty products and guest posts and writing gigs that promise exposure for no payment. I didn’t spend over $20k on an education for exposure. But as long as people care about books and literature and storytelling, I’m happy. And as long as I’m creating something, I’m happy. I think.