Earlier this year, I delivered my latest draft to my beta readers. And I exhaled. The pressure of the edit was over. My words in someone else’s hands. The stress was still there, don’t get me wrong. My words were in someone else’s hands. Ack! But I had no control over those words anymore. And honestly, I was too close. I needed external perspective as much as I need a forced distance from the story.
Once it was gone, I had every intention of using my writing time for query letter and synopsis drafts. Only my heart wasn’t in it. Not because I was afraid of the challenge (although, I’d have every right to be–synopses are my nemesis), or because I didn’t have enough time, or because something else was clamoring for my attention. No. It was more because I truly needed a break from this story. A real mental vacation so that I would be ready for feedback and up to the task of another pass of inevitable revisions.
I cleaned up all my notes, excavating my desk from the stacks of drafts and myriad of sticky notes with lists of filter words and check lists and teetering stack of craft books. I sat in my office, staring at the walls, wondering what’s next.
Staring at generic beige walls.
Walls jam packed with furniture that weren’t serving my needs. The cabinet that housed early drafts also housed the family’s craft supplies, cast-off blank thank you notes, gift ribbon, and old Christmas cards. Books lined the top of the cabinet and were shoved underneath it. Craft books were relegated to a moving cart that made sense when I bought it but were already overflowing its boundaries. There was nowhere to sit and read. The space had become as cluttered as my brain and, worse. Uninspired. My attempts to brighten the space with a colorful rug and art only seemed to highlight what wasn’t working.
So I noodled the paint color I’d seen on someone’s Instagram feed and had jotted down weeks before. I trolled the Internet for bookshelves. I pinned chair options. I felt a creative spark start to burn. I decided I’d spend the time distancing myself from my words with a giant redecorating challenge.
Just as I worried about my words being judged by my beta readers, that they would soon be disappointed in my ability, or lack thereof, to sustain an entire novel, I began to worry that my decorating choices would disappoint and be visible to all. My failure on display.
I moved through the fear anyway, just as I sent the pages anyway. We can’t know for sure until we do the thing. The scary, risky, nagging at your gut that it may just be fantastic thing.
And in the end, it’s lovely. The cabinet of art supplies has been replaced with two bookshelves. My rug suddenly has a purpose. The art is highlighted in a new way and I added house plans designed by my late father to complement his drafting table that is now my desk. A chair beckons for my next beta read or craft study or a place for my feline assistant to cuddle on rainy days. My craft books have a shelf with room to grow. My binders of drafts and workshop materials are now easily accessible. This room is mine. I made it. I will use it. It’s a space in a house crowded with people during this last, most unusual year that allows my mind a place to breathe.
When the feedback from my readers came back, I was ready. Fresh and inspired by my new space. Now I am tackling the edits with the same perspective I did this room–by asking what is working, what serves, and what is simply a colorful rug in a scene that falls flat? Hopefully, in the end, the book will shine as much as my new space.