I sort of know how it happened. Whatever my creative project, I have two speeds: full steam ahead and dead stop. I know this about myself. So when I charged into my first draft on May 1st, I was all flash and fury. I also work best with a deadline, or to use a buzzword, a "timebox." So I gave myself a pretty specific time frame of 5-6 weeks and I wrote like my fingers were on fire.
Then it came time to revise. Which I was cool with. Didn't think I'd have much to do. 'Cause, you know, brilliant. (Little bit of ego here, you think?) Figured I'd get some beta reader opinions, slap on some polish, proofread, and publish. But the worst thing happened - someone hated my first draft. Hated my whole writing process in fact, and broke my tender little heart. "You can't write that fast and you should never share a first draft" was said. "Writing is a slow, methodical, and solitary process and you should always walk away from a drafted piece for at least three months." "WHAAAATTT??!?!" said I. "I don't have that kind of time! Must keep rolling, must stay motivated, plus I'm on a timeline!!"
Suffice to say, chaos and bad feelings ensued. I heard a couple more writers echo the "walk away for a while" thing, and I threw a big old baby fit. I walked away. And what was supposed to be a two week break turned into a six week break. And then an eight week break. My characters, who had been clamoring for attention in my head, piped down and went to sleep. Life got in the way, and all the things that had been threatening to take over my time and energy won out.
Now, I can't entirely blame my one beta reader. Everyone's got an opinion; it's my own fault if I wasn't able to take it with a grain of salt. And I can't say that I could have avoided all the compelling life interruptions that came up - I knew they were on the horizon and they were just as soul sucking as I thought they'd be. Still... There are some things I could have done better.
1). Listened to my instincts: I could have started working on part two of my book while letting part one rest. I didn't have to walk away entirely.
2). Gotten my arrogance in check: I should have been more realistic about the perfection level of my first draft. Got my own hopes up too high and set myself up for a fall.
3). Had a thicker skin: I need to be ready for criticism and figure out how to integrate it without shutting down. If I want to work on a timeline there's no room for freak-outs.
Not that it's all bad. In that time I did figure out the revisions I want to do and managed to take the good with the bad on the one significantly dissenting opinion. Also took the time to make some long-overdue fixes on my published work. I even had the amazing opportunity to get a partial revision from a pro editor, and dang, was it useful! Getting the focus back to continue the revisions is extremely difficult and my original timeline is probably not salvageable, but I can be flexible.
I have some solutions in mind. I need to figure out if my real problem is mental fatigue from all the life issues - if that's the case I can solve the problem by careful time management and scheduling. When I start chipping away methodically I'll feel better and my brainpower will start to recharge. However, if the problem is some kind of mental block about the book I'll need to play psychoanalyst on myself and figure out why I'm avoiding writing. Do I somehow feel this work isn't ready to see the light of day? Do I really want to be focusing on supporting my published work? Am I worried I'll be neglecting my family if I dive into another heavy writing bout? I may need to do some soul searching and answer these questions for myself because these issues are much harder to overcome than simple fatigue.
A message of hope for the writers out there: Just when I thought my characters had abandoned me due to neglect, they came back to me in a dream. I know I can find the way back in, I just have to keep the story going in my mind even if I can't get it on the page right now. It's never too late, and as long as I stay hopeful and keep looking for a fix, I'll find it. It may feel like it's now or never, but there's always time. Wish me luck, and all the best to the rest of you brave literary souls out there!