I bought a bottle of champagne part-way through writing the first draft of my book last year. I told myself that bottle was for the day I finished. What I didn’t say was, finished with what? So far, I’ve finished my first draft, I’ve finished three very serious edits, I’ve finished and sent it off to peers to read, and I’ve finished editing again. Have I opened that bottle of champagne? Nope. But I look at it every day on my shelf and tell myself, “When I’m done.” At this point, what does that even mean?
The elusive bottle of champagne was how I planned celebrate my first milestone. I think when I bought it, I thought that would be when I finished my first draft. But when I reached that point, I didn’t feel accomplished at all. I felt overwhelmed with the project I was in, and underwhelmed with my writing skills. Instead of celebrating, I put my head down and dove into editing.
Self-doubt and self-criticism are loud voices in my head as I write. When I read what I’ve written, I see all the mistakes. Sometimes I see the good. Mostly I notice everything I need to change. Most days I don’t feel like a ‘good writer’, but I know it’s something I want to do, so I carry on.
After editing multiple times, I took a few days rest to celebrate getting my draft good enough to send off to some friends for feedback. I did not open the bottle of champagne. I felt accomplished, but the people reading my book were going to send me back all the things I needed to fix. Champagne didn’t seem appropriate. Now, I’m in the process of editing again.
When I tell people what I’ve been up to for the past year, they are way more excited than I am. They see my accomplishments, but I see what I have left to do. Talking about what I’m doing has made me realize that I’ve been looking at my writing through a mindset that’s hurting my progress. Ignoring the milestones I’ve met has hindered my productivity and disrespected the progress I’ve made. 2019 for me is a year of self-care, and acknowledging where I’m at, even if it’s not the finish line, is something I am trying to do better at.
I was talking to a musician friend about this, and he pointed out that some people celebrate everything as a milestone. Sometimes, over-celebrating comes across as all show and no results. Too much celebrating doesn’t produce productivity. (Unless it does, so by all means celebrate your heart out.) For me, I have a list of goals that I’m aiming to achieve, and when I reach one is when I should be celebrating.
As an artist, it’s easy to see what hasn’t happened yet. What hasn’t been created yet, what hasn’t been recognized yet, what hasn’t been achieved that hopefully will be one day. I see that when I look at my own work. But feeling how empty the glass is instead of how full the glass is discredits what’s in the glass. Most days, I wake up feeling a huge void about what I have left to do in order to be done.
This last week, I submitted my book to a publisher, and now I have to wait about three months to hear anything back. My brain is already in overdrive thinking about finishing the next book. In order to celebrate, I took the last part of this week off and relaxed. And now that the reality has sunk in that book one is ‘done’— sort of— I’m finally opening that bottle of champagne.