Anyone who has ever been 39 weeks pregnant (or close to someone who has) knows the feeling: the anticipation of something inevitable. You know it is coming, one way or another, but you cannot know when. Or how. Or what it might be like.
And there’s impatience.
When you are waiting for something, time can take on a thick, languid stretch. Like the heft a pregnant belly, everything s-l-o-w-s. The world revolves and yet you are standing still.
A few weeks ago, I sent my new manuscript off for feedback. We’ll call this manuscript Novel #4. And although I’ve written and published three novels before, #4 made me feel brand new. When I was writing, rather than the curiosity and enjoyment of previous first drafts, each day was dogged with doubt and fear. Each day when I set my fingers on the keyboard, I had no idea what, if anything, was going to come out. Each day as I made my way to the computer, I was terrified that today was the day I would clam up entirely. And yet each day, somehow, words came.
And now I am waiting for feedback, and time is cool molasses. A 39 week belly.
And there’s impatience.
This manuscript, Novel #4, is something I have wanted to write for a very long time. It might sound like hyperbole but if I’m honest, this is the book I have always wanted to write but never had the courage. And the writing of this book almost didn’t happen. Because after researching, and dreaming, and planning, and ruminating, and building castles in the sky for years, I received news about my published work that no published author wants to hear.
I’ll spare you the details of that news; it doesn’t matter. Just know that it was the kind of news that makes anyone doing something they love question whether they’re actually any good at it, despite how much they … well, love it. But what this news did, when it came, was alert me that this was, potentially, the end. I either had to write something that could sustain me – I had to write something that, no matter what, I desired to write because that was all I had – or I would likely not write again.
So I got a carry case for my laptop, and each morning I drove to a little carpark overlooking a vineyard at the back of my local library. Every morning, while I was still quiet and bleary with sleep, I sat in my car and wrote the book that was in my heart. And when I finished the first draft, I read it back and found, despite its obligatory rawness, I still loved it. It was not the gorgeous castle-in-the-sky that lives in authors’ pre-first-draft imaginations, but the foundations were there. The walls were there, a little holey, but holes can be filled. Rough edges can be smoothed. So I re-wrote, and revised, and re-wrote again and again, and finally, sent it off.
Now, I wait. And in this wait I realise that patience is a choice; waiting with angst or waiting with calm is a choice. I see that I can hold both patience and impatience simultaneously in me. I can hold both fear and love in me. Because no matter what, I will hear back. The baby will come. The waiting will be over and then what’s next … well, that’s the beginning of it, all over again.