Last December, I was pulling everything together for my application to the Writers’ Room fellowship. It would be difficult to quantify just how different my writing life is now. I have a new job that will make it financially feasible for me to stay on at the Room next year. I have a new place that’s quiet enough to work in. And the manuscript that was one-quarter drafted when I applied for my fellowship– a story I was, and still am, truly excited about– was finished about two weeks ago.
The revision process was nonstop, as it always is, because I absolutely love revising. I can and will work on revisions anywhere: on the train, in a waiting room, in front of the TV while my family watches a contentious football match. But drafting is a much more delicate process for me. It’s something that’s gotten harder, weirdly enough, since I’ve gotten better at writing.
It’s become harder to accept the gap between what I can envision, what I know it will eventually be, and what I write on my first go-around. It’s way too easy to go back and self-edit, to limit what I get done because I won’t let myself just get it down on the page. Every time I’m drafting a new manuscript, there’s at least one moment where I’m convinced that the last book I finished is going to be the last book I ever finish.
Being in the Room has been life-changing in that regard. Not only is it a different head space when I need to turn the world off for a few hours, but my being there at all feels like a vote of confidence that’s been hard to come by in my writing life for a while. It’s encouragement and a fire under me all at once. Every time I took the train into State Street after work, picked up my dinner and took the elevator to the fifth floor, it was to dive into the resources that have been given to me this year with the expectation that I’d use them well. With all that behind you, it’s easy to push past your uncertainties about that last bit of dialogue and just get to work.
To do that, I developed strategies that I’ll probably keep using. I doubled, and often tripled, my usual daily word counts. I know I would have finished this manuscript one way or the other, but being at the Room helped me finish it in a way I could be proud of.
The book is in other people’s hands now, and as I think about what’s next, it’s hard not to reflect on the fact that my fellowship will come to an end early next year. It’s a bittersweet feeling. But it’s fun to think that this time next year, a new crop of writers will be looking at their writing life and marveling at all the ways it’s changed.
Rebecca Mahoney, 2017 WROB Fellow