Yesterday, on my 52nd birthday, I woke up early and went into my studio to do some writing before Deena and the dogs were awake. I’ve been waking up a lot early. It’s the stories and the words and the ideas that have been stirring me in the wee hours when I should be sleeping. If I am able to hover within that half-awake-half-asleep-writing-in-my-head time, I can sometimes slip into short dream snippets that provide more creative fodder, especially if I surrender to writing things down in the dark of the bedroom so that my brain can let go without forgetting whatever it was that I was tapping in to. But other times, there’s just no going back to sleep. There’s nothing that I can do other than get up and sneak into the studio, turn on my little electric woodstove and a warm pair of socks, and stare into the glow of my computer screen.
Roughly twenty minutes in, that’s when the moment hit me. I was finished. Not DONE done, but rather, done with the first draft of my book, or maybe the second or third if I dare to stretch the definition of a draft, as I’ve been working on this iteration of my memoir since the start of 2021, but there were other unfinished iterations before that. THIS IS HUGE. I mean, I’m not yet ready to share it with anyone other than Deena and my small memoir-writing group. But at the same time, it feels damn good to say outloud that I’ve hit this unimaginable milestone.
I’ve been taking a wonderful series of classes with Brooke Warner and Linda Joy Myers called The Heart of Memoir, and during the last class, Kiese Laymon author of Heavy: An American Memoir, confessed to writing over thirty drafts before being DONE done. Just weeks before, Joshua Mohr, author of Model Citizen, said something similar in his class, calling the first several drafts of his book the “danger drafts,” written purely for himself, the bare naked, unrefined, nitty gritty truth of everything. As someone who has always admired Anne Lamott’s take on the “shitty first draft” and thought that I needed to have this thing ready to send off to trial readers, agents and the like within two, three, or a-handful-at-most edits, there was something both deeply comforting and profoundly overwhelming about how these gentlemen spoke about their processes, and how they both emphatically and repeatedly said in so many words, whatever you do, do you. Find your own way. Now is not the time to worry about doing it the “right” way. Just do it.
And so I shall.
To me, it feels a bit like having a brand new jigsaw puzzle. As far as I know, all of the pieces are there– that being said, there’s a good chance that a few pieces are missing. Others might get eaten by the dog along the way. And there also may even be some extra pieces there that belong to some other puzzle and need to be set aside or thrown away. Now begins the work of dumping all of the pieces out on to the dining room table and piecing them all together into a solid, cohesive story. That will surely take time, but I feel excited and proud to be here in this place. Just like a puzzle, I’ll start with the border, the frame, the structure, and then I’ll work to fill in the holes, look for patterns, and see what’s what. Will it turn into something that will eventually be published? I’m trying not to think too far ahead. Who knows. But now that I have all or most of the pieces in front of me, I can see the possibilities in my mind’s eye, and I doubt I’ll be sleeping in anytime soon.
In the meantime, will you celebrate with me?