Image from the World Food Programme’s Hunger Plate campaign
Hunger was quite a theme this weekend. I had lunch with an author. We were both famished by the time we got to the restaurant. She talked to me about her upcoming tour and her latest successes. When I told her I was almost done with my draft and was planning to send it out soon–she said, when are you sending it? And just like that my completion point shifted from completing the draft to sending out the draft.
The next day I missed breakfast and was famished again. I took my manuscript with me somewhere I could eat and sit in the sunshine because it was a gorgeous day. I furiously edited everywhere I went.
On Sunday, I was attending an educational event and missed lunch. I was—you guessed it—famished. I grabbed some food and hurried home to type in the last edits of this latest draft. This momentous accomplishment–the third full draft of my novel was done, but there was no fanfare or excitement, because my completion point had shifted. I felt more like, got that done, now it’s time for the next step. The final chapter of my novel ends with hunger—one of the characters contemplating hunger, another character feeling hunger.
I left my newly completed manuscript to head over to Book Court to see Roxane Gay read and talk. At the event, she said the essay she’s most proud of is What We Hunger For. I’m looking forward to reading it. (For those of you who don’t know the author, trigger warning on sexual violence. She writes about the hunger games, PTS, and surviving sexual violence in this essay.)
When asked about her blueprint for success, she says that she is relentless. She can take rejection, not being noticed, anything, she’s not going to stop writing and posting her work. Relentlessness is something you have when your goal is more important the obstacles you have to overcome or the discomforts required to get there. Shame, failure, fear, rejection, fear of rejection, worry, exhaustion, procrastination, avoidance, incompletion, feigned indifference, perceived insignificance, self-criticism—it’s all part of the game. The relentless player knows it’s there, knows it’s coming, and figures out how to duck and dodge, slide past, barrel through, take the hits and keep on moving.
Fact is, progress and growth are also relentless. This weekend, I told another author of multiple books that I was looking forward to joining the “books plural club.” He made a face. I said, What, you don’t have books plural? He said I do, I have multiple books and I have a name, but that doesn’t mean I have it made. I have to promote all the time. The parenthetical I heard in that is: (relentlessly). He has to promote relentlessly. The author I had lunch with is always promoting, it is another part of the job. So as you grow as an author, as an artist, as a human being, the demands are always consistently and relentlessly growing. That progression, that forward propulsion never ends, there are ever new hurdles and shifts to negotiate.
A long while ago, finishing a novel was newsworthy for me. Okay, okay, so it still is, but the fact is–I finished this novel in 2005, at which point it languished on my hard drive for almost a decade. So for the writer I am today, finishing two drafts of said novel in the past two years is progress. It took relentless action and commitment from me. However, the writer I’m striving to be knows that much more needs to be done. That novel must travel, must not remain in my universe. So while I’m finished with my draft, I’m so not finished with this project. I *might* pop the cork on the prosecco when that baby is off to an agent, but for this week, I’m still hungry, and I must to keep moving.
Be well. Be love[d].
Kiini Ibura Salaam