If deadlines don’t exist, I have to invent them.
I don’t always achieve my personal deadlines, but I usually come close. They’re my way of breaking down a huge task (write a book!) into manageable chunks. I wrote The Whole World in a year, entirely on self-imposed deadlines (well, and one looming contest deadline; I didn’t win). Now that I have external deadlines for the next book, I’m amazed at the self-discipline it took to write the first one without them. I remember sitting apart from other parents at playgroup, writing at a table by myself while the rest of them sipped tea and chatted. I remember exiling myself to a library table with my computer and not getting up until I’d reached my goal wordcount for the day. I remember staying up all night to force myself to complete a chapter that challenged me.
But it wasn’t entirely self-discipline. A lot of what drove me to write The Whole World was ambition, and a desperation to live up to the potential of my youth. That’s pushy stuff.
Christina Schwarz’s second novel, All is Vanity, didn’t make nearly the splash that her first (Drowning Ruth) did. But I love it, oh I love it.
The protagonist is a former “gifted child” grown into an ordinary adult. This gulf between her childhood expectations and grown-up reality drive her to quit her teaching job and attempt to write a novel. Relying only on vague “talent,” she suffers sort-of-deserved failures and humiliations. To some readers who commented on Amazon, she is unbearable, stupid and unrealistic. But I recognize a lot of myself.
Okay, let me be clear: elements of myself exaggerated to comic and tragic extremes. But elements of myself nonetheless. The book humbles me, chastises me, and entertains me. I reread it every year or so. Assuming that readers of this blog are book people, you might enjoy it too. And if you’re a writer, you may see an embarrassing, laugh-out-loud bit of yourself.