Twelfth Night Revels

The holidays end. A new year begins.

Happy tail end of the holidays to you! I hope family, friends, and travels treated you well, and that however you celebrated, if you celebrated, you’re starting the new year refreshed and grateful to be here in spite of all the horrors out there. I am—grateful, anyway.

One thing I’m most grateful for: I turned in my book manuscript on Dec. 31, a day before the official deadline. This project has been living in my head and on my computer for several years now, and I wanted to end the decade with it completed, as best I could get it to that stage. (There is surely a lot of rewriting and revising ahead.) I wanted to prove to myself that I could finish the draft and let go of it. And I did.

Truth be told, the final push took it out of me. I poked and prodded and added and deleted and adjusted and tweaked the draft until the moment I sent it off. Still, I wasn’t expecting to feel as flat-out exhausted as I did after I hit “Send” on New Year’s Eve. It took me a couple of days to feel more or less back to normal, and I’m still not quite there.

The closest analogy I’ve hit on is that wrung-out feeling you get after you’ve had the flu and you sense that you are through the worst of it but still feel vulnerable in body and spirit, not fully restored but glad to be on the mend. I’ve had milder versions of this post-writing collapse before, especially with longer stories, but the strength of the feeling startled me this time around.

Then again, I’ve never gotten a book of mine this far before. It’s unfamiliar territory. As I said, I’m grateful to be here.

Pretty soon I will start fretting about all the things I can’t control: What if my editor declares the book unpublishable? What if I got something hideously wrong? What if I make somebody angry or missed something essential (I’m sure I did—almost all books do) or wildly misinterpreted an argument or bit of evidence? What if nobody reads it? What if somebody actually reads it?

And so on and so forth. The writing life is a study in anxieties. The trick is not minding.

Some last-of-the-holidays links for your delight and perusal this week, especially if the headlines have gotten to be too much for you:

1) Today is the last day to see the manuscript notebook of A Christmas Carol at the Morgan Library in NYC. If you didn’t get there in person this time around to see Charles Dickens’ wonderful strikeouts and scrawls and improvements (see, he revised a lot too), the Morgan has the manuscript digitized. (Every year my family re-reads A Christmas Carol out loud; every year I hear something new in it.)

2) File this away for next December: As a diehard “Xmas” fan, I was thrilled to see this thread by dictionary maven Kory Stamper. (Read the full thread.)

3) I didn’t do best-of-2019 lists—there are plenty to choose from already—nor do I have Big Resolutions for 2020. But I have resolved to make it a year to celebrate the pleasures of tactile objects, including good pens and pencils and journals to write and sketch in. After I turned in my book, I stocked up on some very satisfying notebooks and planners, including these from Iron Curtain Press. They look washed out here but they’re a lovely shade of pale aquamarine in real life, and they’re a pleasure to hold and to write in.

As a reward for turning in my book manuscript (a day early!), I went to @eastcitybookshop and bought a lovely planner and task pad from @ironcurtainpress. Here’s to an organized new year.
January 2, 2020

4) The most beautiful book I got for Christmas has got to be Lydia Davis’s Essays One, with its gorgeous green rough-paper cover and hefty-but-compact feel. (I’ll quit raving about Lydia Davis in every newsletter, promise.)

5) I can’t draw worth a damn but I’ve decided to do a little sketching every day (most days, anyway) to give my brain a break from words and to remind myself to pay attention to the shape of things. Serendipitously, over on Twitter, writer Claire Ryan issued a #YearOfArt challenge for the year.

My New Year’s wish: that you remember the things and people that bring you joy and make time for them this year, whatever challenges 2020 brings.

Thanks for reading!