Friday, May 2, 2008

Celebrating the Little Victories

I finished a first draft of my novel today.

And you know what? I want to celebrate.

To me it is a bit of a miracle, not because it’s destined to become a bestseller, but because I challenged myself to sit down and get out the story that’s been rattling around in my head for six years. So while I began this initial draft this past January – a time when one of my New Years resolutions was to stop complaining about not being inspired and just drill my way through it – I’ve been writing it on and off for six years.

In those six years I bought a mini-van, had a second child, grieved the loss of a dear friend, held a job as a nanny along with taking care of my own children, gained and lost about fifty pounds, and am currently teetering on the decision to move to another state. In short – I’ve lived my life. Writing has been with me through it all. Sometimes as comfortable as my well-worn pair of Uggs, other times as indifferent as an old college roommate I’d lost touch with. I’ve struggled with my writing, especially in the last two years, asking myself why I would want to commit myself to something that keeps me in an almost constant state of anguish?

Maybe it was the tenacity of my characters who kept talking to me even when I didn’t want to listen. Or maybe it was seeing that all my writer friends struggle with this at one time or another. In January I made an ultimatum with myself.

Write the darn thing, or quit.

As an incentive I bought myself a pair of chocolate-brown suede, wedge heeled sandals with the exotic name of "Amelie". (Picture at the top of the post, just in case you thought you stumbled upon ebay) Completely impractical, nothing like the sneakers or slip-ons I favor most days. That was my carrot. When the box arrived, I put it on the high shelf of my closet. (Confession: I did open them and try them on, can you imagine my disappointment if my little reward didn’t fit when I reached my goal?) All I kept thinking was I couldn’t wear them until I pumped out the whole shebang, beginning, middle and end. Some days it was all that kept me chiseling away.

There are so many things we as writers can get down about. Rejection. Vague critiques from well meaning (or not so well meaning) editors. Waiting months for news on manuscripts. Even the success of others can derail me into a spiral of self-indulgent self-loathing. So I’ve come to realize, the little victories are important to celebrate.

No one is there to cheer you on when you sit at your computer even when you have other responsibilities calling you. No one is there to see you struggle with your ideas. No one is there to witness you make the decision to barrel through your boredom and commit to your story. These are the moments that make us writers, just as much as an acceptance letter or book signings.

I know I’m far from finished. There will be fine-tuning and cutting and probably major structure changes before my manuscript will be ready to be sent out into the universe. But you’ll have to excuse me for the moment…I have to make an appointment for a pedicure. I’ve got some new shoes to wear!


  1. Robin,
    I love your post and the shoes look great. What a clever incentive- much more practical than buying a bikini thinking you'll lose the weight... shoe sizes at least aren't too subject to how much ice cream we eat or don't. I'm inspired by your time schedule- I do well with deadlines so this is an idea for myself. Quitting is too harsh sounding.
    And the novel is amazing. Congratulations!

  2. WOW! Incentive-ized writing! It's like a gold star only better. And it doesn't give you a hangover like Cosmos!
    GREAT idea, Robin. GREAT "first" draft.

  3. Robin: Love the post. Love the shoes. I hope you enjoy wearing them as much as I enjoyed reading your manuscript! Only one thing troubling me: You're not really moving, are you? Ack.

  4. First the shoes and then the rest of the outfit . . . shoes for a first draft, a swirling skirt for winning a prize, and a pizzazz shirt for getting published!

  5. But can we still have a Cosmo with each step? Wearing the new shoes, of course.

    Robin -- loved the book, loved the ending -- which I read as my family waited for dinner. Many congrats.