The last few hundred yards of a marathon are always the toughest.
Well, okay, I’ve never run a marathon and doubt I could run more than a block and a half even if being chased by knife-wielding ducks, but you get my point*.
I’m currently under contract with Rowman & Littlefield, and have been neck deep in writing a manuscript since last August, due to be delivered by May 1. (I’d love to be able to announce what it is, but have to wait until they release the information first.)
I’m almost there.
Being immersed in a big project is generally a must for me. Keeps me focused. Keeps me sane. And it’s gratifying seeing something come together piece by piece. The act of creation, of making something where nothing had existed previously, is a more important part of me than I can explain.
Taking on a project like this is for the most part just a matter of pulling on your work gloves and getting in the dirt. It’s work, so you work. I’ve been down that road before. I know what needs to be done.
Getting into the stretch run, though, can be nerve wracking.
You’ve got a finished manuscript in front of you, but it’s not finished finished. Having a complete draft is just the first step. Then comes endless re-reading, rewriting, revising, tweaking, adjusting, sending out to early readers to get their feedback and corrections and observations, then writing and adjusting some more.
Meanwhile, if it’s a work of nonfiction (as this is), you’re having to go through the entire book to create the index, which is tedium defined. You’re double-checking your sources, re-checking quotes, and a host of other things to ensure your observations are clear and well-expressed and have something of value to say, and that your scholarship is accurate and interesting and properly cited and sourced.
You’re doing this all while knowing the day is fast approaching when you won’t be able to improve the book any more. You’ll have to turn it in. What’s done will be done. It’s going to have your name put on it and be sent out into the world to live or die, and with it a portion of your reputation as a writer.
Ask any writer and they’ll tell you that no story or article or book is ever truly finished, they just reach a point where you have to walk away from it. Absent that, we can peck at something forever.
So when the day is coming that you have to walk away from something you’ve been laboring over, it can be stressful. You’ve poured your heart and soul into something, and soon you have to cut it loose knowing you could have done more.
“Is it good enough?” is a question that plagues most writers. Our favorite project is always our next one, because its blooming with potential. Our least favorite is the one we just did, because all we can see are the parts of it we should have done better.
The finish line is almost here for my next book, yet there’s still a lot off work to be done.
I look forward to being able to openly and officially announce it. It’s a project I’ve wanted to do for many years now, one aimed at sharing something I love to share with others. I aim to do it justice. So far, I think I have. But there’s always more to do.
Despite this, as soon as this manuscript it turned into my editor, I’ll probably let this project fade from my mind (aside from the inevitable marketing and awareness push).
Because the next project is always the more exciting.
For now, though, it’s time to enjoy some elevated stress levels.
*The last few hundred yards probably aren’t the hardest either. It’s not like I know anything about running. What am I even talking about? I ought to stop making up metaphors and analogies and word thingies.