Post-Novel Confusion: Ashley Bell

Each time I finish a novel, there is a day or two of euphoria, an irrational feeling that I have beaten death rather than just a deadline. I am more than half convinced that I could stand in front of a speeding freight train and survive. I have never tested this conviction, but only out of consideration for the cost to the railroad company and the potential injuries to the crew if the train should derail on contact with my invulnerable self.

When the euphoria passes, I enter a period of confusion, not sure what to do next. I answer a little reader mail. Reorder the contents of my desk drawers. Inventory my socks. Ponder at length, once again, whether to give away my neckties and whether I really need that white shirt for funerals or if, in the future, I can wear one of my more solemn Hawaiian shirts. This continues until I realize that, if I don’t start writing fiction again, I will have a quiet meltdown and spend the rest of my life in a mental institution, talking to myself and eating flies that stray by.

After finishing Ashley Bell, which was the most exhilarating creative experience since I wrote Watchers, the euphoria was so intense that, when it passed, I sank into a deeper state of aimlessness than ever. Counting snails in a bed of impatiens. Listening to audiobooks with the sound off. Fortunately, before I got to the point of spending days counting the hairs on my dog’s tail, I started an e-novella, Last Light, which came in at more than 23,000 words, at once started another novella, and life was good. I’m not sure if it’s sad or a blessing that I would rather be writing than lying by the pool with an umbrella drink, but considering that, during my first seventeen years, 347,846 people called me a slacker with no future, I suppose things have turned out all right.

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