I've been struggling with the process of letting go of a newly finished novel, surprised at the hole it has left behind. I loved the characters so much that I grieved when they left the stage, so to speak. Their departure was part of a perfect storm of 1) the Covid quarantine that kept me from my gal-pals; 2) my son moving to NYC; and 3) finishing the novel that had consumed so much of my thinking, and that, additionally, pointed out to me that most of my friends are imaginary. But working through it, I've come to believe in these stages in writing:
- In the Glorious Zone: This is the beginning, when the imaginary world is dense and thrilling, the condition all writers wish they could live in all the time.
- Intimate Relationships: when the characters make demands and reveal themselves in return.
- Leaving and Returning to the Stage: the book seems finished, but characters keep coming back on stage and you are commanded by the characters and your own sense of duty to the craft to record what they're doing.
- Grieving the End: celebration over the completion of the book but it soon feels like a wake, grieving for the loss of the imaginary friends your characters have become.
- Facing the Void: so much in your life has been sacrificed for your art, which you have justified as 'it's not really important anyway' but now that the art has quieted, you have nothing left other than things that "aren't important." It's like the empty nest pheon. Additionally, filling the void is hampered by...
- Honoring the Empty Well: you can't read other people's work and are too tired to start research on something else, not even to blog. The void is terrifying but it's what happens when you give it everything you've got.
- Harnessing the Energy Somehow: taking on other projects or creative expressions to burn off the creative energy that's been building but won't take the shape of words.
- Surviving the Disappointment: now you get to weather the process of taking your art to market.