And Out You Go

empty nest

In The Eleventh Draft, edited by Frank Conroy, William Lashner so aptly describes what I’ve been feeling lately. He writes, “When I complete a book, I am supposed to be happy, relieved. I am supposed to rejoice that I am finished, but what I feel more than anything is loss. When I turn in a manuscript for the final time it is as if, in the garden of my novel, I have eaten from the fruit of completion and, as punishment, been banished.”

Having just submitted my final manuscript for Laughing Down the Moon, I felt adrift. The tide pushed me towards the security of my local library. The book, The Eleventh Draft, is one I checked out from what I thought to be an underwhelmingly small selection of books on writing. I’d been impressed before by this library’s collection on the writing craft, so I thought that either some new writer was fresh on the scene and had checked everything out, or that I was missing something. Turns out, all but The Eleventh Draft and a couple other writerly books were being displayed next to the banks of computers, alongside some flyers for classes on memoir producing, character creating, and conflict escalating (or topics along those lines.)

I first cracked the book open to a random essay inside during silent reading time in the English 12 class that I teach. This was the paragraph my eyes landed on. It was quiet enough in the tile-floored, fluorescently lit room to hear the squeak that snuck out of my throat. Paper pages turned, fingers glided across e-reader screens, and I re-read William Lashner’s words. He felt loss at being done with the writing of his manuscript. Loss. Loss when he should feel joy. I was relieved to read that.

Just two nights earlier I had emailed Laughing Down the Moon to Bella Books, for what, I believe, was the final time. Laughing Down the Moon is my first novel, so I’ve never been here before. I had been under the impression that I’d feel like celebrating, singing, and dancing at this moment. Instead, despite the champagne that Florence popped open for me, I had a glimpse into the emotions of an empty nester. Never having had kids, I don’t know if this is a fair comparison, but my baby had just moved out. No, I pushed my baby out. I’d never again wake up in the middle of the night saying, “You know what would be cool in that Solschristus scene? A burning tree! I’m going to start the dang thing on fire!” Well, I might wake up saying that, but it would be too late. My book is done. I can day, or night, dream all I want about what the characters might have said if…or might have done when…but it is too late.