Over the last few weeks, I have been working on my final revision with my editor at my publishing house. We’ve been back and forth over chapters, choices, words and similies and last night, it was done. We still lack a copy edit, but…
OIL AND MARBLE IS FINISHED.
Whenever I pictured this moment, I thought I’d go out to sushi with my husband, clink wine glasses with my best friend, dance in my living room. I thought I’d be excited.
Instead, I’m depressed.
I’ve read about other novelists who suffer from this post-book depression, but I’ve never felt it. All of my other books still live in my house with me, here to be re-imagined whenever I want. Even when I “finished” this book, I knew it wasn’t done. After the first draft, I still had revisions (years of revisions). After revisions, a polish or two. Even when I sent the manuscript off to agents and then publishers, I always knew I would get to return. I knew my editor would ask for revisions, and I would be able to make changes. I knew I would get to disappear back into Renaissance Florence and become Leonardo and Michelangelo once more…
I first asked the question that inspired this novel twenty years ago, when I was in college. I researched that question for about decade, and then came up with the story in 2006. After years of working on it as a screenplay, I started writing the novel in 2011. These people, this world, this story has been with me longer than my favorite old quilt, my exercise regimen, my husband… It has lived with me for half of my life.
Michelangelo, Leonardo, Lisa, Machiavelli… even the David himself. They are all my dear friends. I know them better than I know most of the people in my life, and now… I’m no longer WRITING about them – in the present tense.
I’ve WRITTEN about them.
Past tense. It’s over.
I know I can always write ANOTHER novel about Michelangelo or Leonardo. But it will never again be Leonardo da Vinci versus Michelangelo. It won’t be Lisa versus David. It won’t be THIS moment in history or in their lives. It won’t be Leonardo struggling with age, war, and death. It won’t be the young Michelangelo BECOMING Michelangelo…
When a BOOK is published — when it arrives in bookstores, printed and ready for sale — it’s out there. The author can’t change it. Can’t go back to it.
The READERS can still take make it something new – for them. But for me, the book is done.
I now understand Leonardo in a way I never have before:
Art is never finished, only abandoned.
I know the answer to my sadness. After I listen to some sad songs, eat cookie dough and drink wine (I sound like a broken-hearted twenty year old, don’t I?), then it’s time to disappear into my NEXT novel — to fall in love with those characters and that place and that art as much as I fell in love with these.
At least this time, I’ll know this sad feeling is coming. So, maybe, just maybe, I’ll appreciate this new world, this time period, this art, these characters, this LIFE a little bit more, while I still have them…