Tuesday, June 4, 2013

And Then It Was June

May was an important month where I learned something vital about myself--I am so NOT cut out for ghostwriting.

Several months ago I approached a brilliant writer/illustrator friend of mine about helping me out with my children's picture book, Lizzie Lilac and the Left Socks. Despite what you believe about a writer's life being all money and glamor, I didn't have the money to pay her for the illustrations and hoped we could work out a trade. The book proceeds from my book will be donated to UT's Huntsman Cancer Institute--I'm not planning to make any money on this book.

Long story short, we worked out a trade. And because we wanted to be fair we put together a contract. Unfortunately we sort of skipped a vital part of the contract that I'll get into later, but for the time being we were good to go.

She kept me updated on her progress, including sending me sample drawings and stuff and I was so excited about the process and how it was all coming together. I had several other things going on in my life but we gave each other almost a year to finish the projects we'd traded so I was confident I could still get her book written.

Then she delivered the pictures, all done and signed and sealed and everything. And they were awesome. I mean, really, really beautiful.

And I started to feel like I could never deliver something of equal value to her. Sure, I had agreed to put together a 2nd draft-worthy copy of the 4th book in her series. There was lots of material to draw from, plenty to get me in the heads of the characters, and everything.

Then 2013 happened. Well, December 2012 wasn't exactly kind, either. My mother in law died, my computer crashed, my son broke his arm, my daughter nearly broke hers, my fridge died, the washer started acting up--you name it, it fell apart. And I still didn't have the final storyline pages I needed to do the ghostwriting project. I couldn't access anything on my computer, which had the stuff she'd already sent me, for three months.

But through a lot of prayer and work things started settling down in my personal life. I wanted to write again. It was the whole reason I quit my job at the beginning of December. I made a really ambitious plan for myself for the year and wanted to really work hard at getting the books written that have been invading my mind for the last several months.

But first I knew I needed to finish my contractual obligations. What's more, I wanted to. I thought it would be fun to get into someone else's characters' heads and really cut loose. I was excited to do it.

So I re-read books 1 through 3 and prepared to get going on book 4.

My husband quit his job at the end of April. He put in his notice and was confident he'd have a job within those 2 weeks. His boss filled his spot. He still didn't get a job. For more than 5 weeks. My stress levels went through the roof and I just can't create when I'm that stressed.

Nothing. I mean, my brain turned into a wasteland. All the flashy, fun ideas just dried up and I had nothing. May rolled around and I really started sweating. I had everything I needed but couldn't write the book. What was wrong with me?

All I could see was my deadline. I had to write the book and then go through and revise it to 2nd draft quality and I only had until May 31st. I had wanted to be able to deliver the book early, like May 20, but that dream quickly went up in smoke. I prayed. I fasted. I begged. I started the book in my head at least a dozen times and didn't get beyond the first page. I got into the file and started rewriting the chapters that were already there. And got hung up on chapter 2. It just wasn't going right, and I didn't know what to do.

Finally, with about 8 days left till the end of the month, my husband--who had been trying to encourage me through the process--went into the office with me and we started taking the story apart. What needed to happen. How did it need to happen. When did it need to happen. Etc.

I threw up my hands and said, "What if I just started with a blank page? What if I just wrote the whole thing out from scratch?"

He thought for a moment and then said, "That might be what you have to do."

So I did. I opened up a new file and started typing. I did take bits from what the author had already written and added them in at parts, so honestly saying that I wrote over 50k words that week isn't exactly accurate. But I did go through each part and smooth it out so it flowed with the rest of the story.

I still felt bad. I mean, I'd promised a 2nd draft quality manuscript and would barely be able to piece together a rough draft. It upset me. And it was still so, so hard that I considered giving up at least a dozen times. But then I thought, "I have to give her something. I have to try."

I added 20k words to the manuscript on May 31st. No lie. Bryan got a job and he wanted to take the family out and celebrate and I couldn't not be a part of it, but staying up after we got back only netted about 4k words, which just wasn't enough. And that was May 30th. I had a lot to do when I got up on that last day.

All I could think was at least she will have something to work with. You can't edit a blank page. And here's where the contract came back to haunt me. We hadn't really spelled out consequences if we didn't fulfill our obligations. I mean, not really. And I hated that. I wanted there to be fairness if I failed, even if it meant I had to shell out the money for every single drawing she put her heart in for me.

But, I finished the book just before midnight on the 31st and emailed it to her. I explained to her that it wasn't what we agreed on, but it was the best I could do under the circumstances.

And then I went into a vegetative state for almost two days. I read a couple of really bad books on my Kindle. I slept. I felt like the walking dead when I wasn't sleeping. It's Monday, and I'm still not at 100% but I sort of feel almost normal now.

Writing that book was the hardest thing I've ever done. I had no idea it would be like that when I agreed to do it, nor when I started it. I can't even compare it to any of the other challenges I've faced in my life. It was so, so hard. And I still don't feel like it was enough. But I have no idea how much of that is real and how much is my overall sense of unworthiness. You know? Like I'm never going to be good enough. That feeling pervades so much of my life it's not even funny.

I really hit rock bottom when I was failing my friend, failing our contract. And I don't know how good the book is, but I did like it when I was done. I was satisfied with several aspects of it. But the idea of going back to it and making changes gives me the chills. I'm not ready. I may never be ready.

That's disappointing. I wanted to be able to do my best. And my best didn't turn out to be as good as I wanted it to be.

Now I'm sitting here thinking I need to work on one of my projects. Maybe starting tomorrow. But I can't decide which one to work on first.
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