Recently my husband started his own blog and quest: to ride his bicycle every day and give up cookies, cake, donuts, and ice cream. Or so he thought. But the other day he had a stunning and horrifying revelation (which fortunately he said out loud so that I could make fun of him):
“Ice cream sandwiches have ice cream in them!”
Apparently he’d eaten several at school without realizing that they violated his no ice cream rule. When I pointed out that they also violated his no cake rule, he argued “No, those are cookies! Wait…crap.”
(For the record, my husband is not actually an idiot. He’s just chronically sleep deprived.)
But he’s not the only one having “oh, duh” revelations around here. As I mentioned in a previous post, it took me a while to realize that writing is not, in fact, an easy or even entirely sedentary career. And then this week I became very worried that I’d made another glaring error. A colleague was trying to convince me to attend a Renaissance literature conference, and I remembered something:
One reason I decided not to pursue my PhD was because at the time I just couldn’t conceive of remaining with the same project for years and years and putting in the exhausting effort necessary to completely perfect it for publication.
You know, EXACTLY WHAT A NOVELIST NEEDS TO DO.
But then I thought about the situation more, and I discovered several key differences between my abandoned scholarly writing career and my planned fiction writing one. It isn’t really revisions that I hate; I’m actually a proofreading and editing fan, to be honest. I was more put off by the exhaustive research required for scholarly work. (Until you get famous or well-paid enough to have research assistants do it for you, anyway.)
I should explain that I actually adore preliminary research, and I even like follow-up research to fill in the gaps. What I despise is the need, after you have a fairly complete draft, to read (or skim) everything that was ever written on your topic, mostly so that (1) you have an army of footnotes and (2) you’re prepared for all possible questions during the interrogation period that follows dissertation and conference presentations. (Not that I’m cynical about the ivory tower system or terrified by impromptu speaking or anything…)
Luckily, I don’t plan to write novels that are immersed enough in history, current technology, or other topics that require more than the enjoyable preliminary and gap-filling research. And I think I can survive the obsessive revising required for novel writing, though we’ll have to wait until I have a novel draft worthy of revision to find out. (Last year’s Nanowrimo taught me a great deal, but it didn’t leave me with an end result that seems worth revising.)
So I’ll keep forging ahead, accepting the fact that if I make it as a writer I’ll still have to deal with deadlines and stress and self-doubt…
But I bet I’ll get more pajama days.