The Making of a Novel: What Motivates

I just had lunch with a student who has just completed a final polished draft of his memoir. He had it there on the table -- 251 pages, printed and bound and resting in a FedEx office box. (Alas, that just doesn't have the same ring to it as "Kinkos" did.) He couldn't stop smiling and I couldn't stop smiling, because writing and polishing that many pages of a story is a huge accomplishment. It's irrefutable. He did it.

I've been feeling anxious about books lately -- what with the launch of Google books, and the announcement about an e-book bestseller list at The New York Times, and the fire sales at Borders stores which seem to be closing all over Southern California. Things are changing, to be sure, and it makes it hard to sit down each day and write, and think that anything good will happen to a book.

Seeing that finished manuscript today motivated me. It reminded me that just finishing a book is a good thing. Just doing it is a good thing.

Reading all the "best of" lists published this time of year motivates me, too. I love reading different people's takes on what books they loved, and find myself scribbling down titles and tearing out corners of the newspaper to try to keep track of the ones that I think I might love, too. All those books, so many of them so promising! It motivates me to think that what I'm writing might make it on someone's "best of" list one day -- even if that someone's list is never seen by anyone else.

This weekend I'll be going to a party to celebrate the new independent bookstore in my neck of the woods, and that motivates me, too. What I'm writing might have a place on those shelves -- but only if I finish it, and polish it, and do all the thing necessary to do to get it out there.

So it's back to my story I go... more motivated than I was before lunch.