Well, tomorrow is the big day. Dominion will appear in stores! My first published book! People I don't know (and might never know) will hopefully start reading it. This is, needless to say, a very exciting time for me. And I'm celebrating by being an emotional kaleidoscope.
Not all at once, really, but for the past few weeks its felt like I had a big checklist of emotions and I was trying to go through all of them before the book came out. A month ago, I actually felt pretty blasé about the whole thing. I was somehow expecting more action, or at least more excitement, as the release date approached, but life felt very normal a month out. I started to settle into that, and looked at the launch like I do a birthday: it's a milestone event, but nothing really changes from one day to the next. Which may still prove to be the case.
Then at the beginning of February, I went to the Ontario Library Association superconference to do my first signing, and it started to feel more like this might be a sea change in my life. For the signing itself I was a bundle of nerves, but people seemed excited to read the book! And I got to meet some of the fantastic folks from my publisher, Orca! And there was a new review in Quill & Quire! I finally had some time to hang out with my wonderful editor Robin Stevenson (who was there for a signing too, being an excellent author herself), who introduced me to many other writers. I had the feeling I was joining a new community, that I was seeing behind the curtain and it was pretty cool back there. This was exciting. Dreams-coming-true exciting.
And then I got home, and reflected on the couple of reviews I'd seen, and got kind words on the book from Tim Wynne-Jones, an author I admire greatly, and I started telling people about my launch event for Dominion (March 5th, 3-4pm at the Guelph Public Library main branch, by the way. There will be cookies). And in all of that, I got smacked in the face by a huge dose of imposter syndrome. It wasn't about the book, though. I still loved the book. But me, I'm not so sure about. Suddenly people were talking about me, and about events featuring me. At some point, someone was going to realize that I'm Just Some Guy. Everyone was sure to be disappointed. (I knew it was imposter syndrome even as I was feeling it, but that didn't really chase the feelings away.) That morphed into a general anxiety that made me, at times, wish the whole thing would just go away.
The anxiety faded, and excitement came back. But then a few days ago, I started feeling very exposed. I hope many people, far and wide, read Dominion. I wrote it to be read! But it also feels so very, very public for something that's so important to me. I'm not a very public guy, generally. Going out for coffee with people can be an effort. (And having kids makes me even less social, because I'm an introvert but I have to spend all day talking to and taking care of tiny, unrelenting chatterboxes.) I had dreams about ending up in public in nothing but boxer shorts, and trying to play it cool like that was what I meant to wear. Having Dominion out there in the world feels a bit like that.
And today? All of it, all at once. Nervousness, fear, nakedness, glee, confusion. I can't believe it's actually here. It feels unreal, even thought I've known it was coming for over two years now.
Tomorrow you'll either find me crowing on the rooftops or hiding under my covers. Maybe both! Or maybe it will just be another day. I've never done this before.
Writing as a stay-at-home dad is like being the subject of an experiment to see when and how the human brain can be creative. It's often hard to find set periods of time to write (though it's been getting easier as the kids get older) and the times I do find are generally short. Dominion was written between the hours of 5 and 6 a.m. while I was on parental leave for my second child. Some days I would get an hour to write, some days I would open my laptop and instantly hear a crying baby. I had read that a consistent writing schedule was helpful in Anne Lamott's excellent Bird by Bird, but consistency doesn't happen when you're on kid duty.
So what I've learned about my brain is this: it can adapt to just about any schedule, but it needs some time to settle in. Lately I've had two to four mornings a week for writing, about two hours each morning. For the first while in this new arrangement, I would write furiously for the first 45 minutes, and then I'd hit a wall. My brain was pretty sure this was stopping time, because surely someone was about to start crying, right? Time to shut down and start looking for the diaper cream. It took me a few months to push past that, to start writing longer. Even now I usually have a lull after 45 minutes. I get up, pace for a few minutes, and then I can resume.
The other thing I've learned is that I can't write first drafts in the evening. Our youngest, who is now two, has always been an early riser. I wanted to get up at 5 and do some writing, as I did before, but she liked to get up around 4:30 most mornings, so that was right out. So I tried writing after bedtime instead. But I've always been a morning person, and creatively it shows. When I write something after the kids are in bed, it either stalls out before it begins or it's so full of plotholes that the words hardly stick together. For hard first draft work, or really complicated revisions, I need my wits about me, and by 8pm my wits have already hit the hay. On the other hand, this is the perfect time for some minor revisions--I'm much better at catching writing that doesn't flow, because even the smallest hitch can trip me up when I'm tired.
I remember when I was younger, I could write in a frenzy. I'd finish a short story in a day, sweating over my keyboard. I didn't know about NaNoWriMo back then, but I would have done it. (I did write a draft of an early novel in under a month once. But it was June, so it doesn't count.) Now I'm much more of a chip-away-at-it writer. Small but steady progress, adding up to big things over time. It makes more sense for my life as a parent.
Hello, and welcome to my new website, my home on the Internet. Mostly, the site will feature news about my books, and this blog that will focus on writing, publishing, and how I do those things with three small kids. Not in a how-to way. More like a travelogue.
The whole site was put together by Chris Arbuthnott, my brother and an all-around awesome human being. If you like what you see, full credit goes to him. (Thanks to to Gab White for her input on design, too. You can find her here.)
The website is going up just as my first published novel, Dominion, is getting ready to launch on February 21st, 2017 with Orca Books. I've been working on the book for around four years already, and more if you count the preliminary notes I made almost six years ago, when the novel's world was just beginning to form in my head. It's been a long road, but it shouldn't be so long for the next one. I'm currently writing a sequel for Dominion, which Orca and I hope to have out just a year after the first book.
I'll be on here regularly on the blog, or you can follow me on Twitter @smarbuthnott for updates of a more granular nature. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you like the book!