Something wonderful happened last night. I finished a draft of my very first book.
Early in June I set out some writing goals for myself, along with a plan for my writing life. Among the goals was finishing this book. Another of the goals (related to this book) was to work on using dialogue. I have worked on it. How successful it’s been will be up to others.
When I sat down to work on this book, it came pouring out, often in 800 word increments. I could clearly envision the world of the characters. I felt I knew the main character inside and out and his friends started to come to life for me across the pages. We are now six weeks into summer vacation, with a scant three remaining. My draft is a little over 8000 words.
It took a little more than a week’s actual writing. I put the first words to its pages in April, not long after finishing the Slice of Life challenge and deciding to try writing a different book in the same neighborhood. I can see you doing that math. How did an early chapter book take four months if I could write 1/10 of it in a single sitting?
So I have a confession.
In spite of my best and most earnest intentions, I haven’t been writing every day this summer. I’ve been less writerly than I’d planned.
I could blame any number of causes: travel, the lack of schedule & routine this summer, numerous commitments for the rest of the family, distractions… Or I could blame myself for not setting aside my sunrises as I’d planned from the beginning. (The thing is that sunrise feels very early when you’ve only just gone to sleep.) I’d fully intended to participate daily in Teachers Write so I’d have a crew and some daily accountability. For the reasons above and none at all–I haven’t. I could be angry with myself. I could belittle what I have achieved because it wasn’t all I’d expected. But I’m hearing a little voice inside…
“Dinna fash yerself lass.”
Ok, so yesterday’s #bookaday was historical fiction from Scotland. But Angus’ advice is sound.
There’s no point beating myself up about how it didn’t all go according to plan. It’s true of my writing this summer. And it’s true for our teaching the rest of the year. If we want to keep our heads up (and the heads of the precious littler writers we’re trying to grow) we need to fully celebrate the accomplishments, no matter how delayed. Because finishing a book (even a first draft) is exciting. I feel more powerful as a writer than I ever have. I hadn’t realized I could do this, and now I’ve proven to myself that I can. I’m feeling confident enough to try again…maybe with this same character, or maybe with the first novel that I started and set aside in favor of something that felt easier. I’m hearing another voice…
“We celebrate hard. Then we get back to work.”
That one is Lucy Calkins’ voice, though I’ve paraphrased.
It is important, though, that I recognize what got in the way of meeting my other writing plans. Being reflective about what was working and what wasn’t in my process can help me set up better conditions, and perhaps devise more effective strategies for meeting those targets next time.
In the end, the books I write are a byproduct. What I’m really working to grow is a writer.
So consider this (and an ice cream–hey it’s still National Ice Cream Month for one more day!) my hearty celebration. Tomorrow it’s back to work on the next set of goals.
May you have your own celebrations this summer and always!