The Joy of the Middle: Finding Writing Contentment Wherever You Are by Andromeda Romano-Lax

When my first creative book, a travelogue called Searching for Steinbeck’s Sea of Cortez was published a million years ago, I was already working on the first chapters of the next book—not because I knew it’s good to be in the middle of one new thing to distract yourself from the sales and review outcomes of the last thing, but only because a new idea had called to me.

When that book—my first novel, The Spanish Bow—came out, I was again in the early stages of the next thing, and so the pattern has generally gone for most of my career until recently.

Last year, I set myself a new goal. I wanted the next book fully drafted and submitted before the current latest book came out. I thought this was a clever plan. Only now do I recognize its serious flaw. I now find myself not in the middle of something, which is my happy place.

If this sounds like a humblebrag, I assure you that it’s not. A book launch is anticlimactic or downright disappointing for many writers. The only person I know who experienced no stress at all gave birth around the time her debut novel came out. She was so busy with a new baby that she couldn’t think about her book’s sales or reviews! She had no energy left for fretting. Most of us, unfortunately, do—until we are deeply in the middle of the next thing.

When you are in the middle of a writing project, you are living in an established world, with characters you know, writing in a voice that has become familiar, wrestling with themes that continue to emerge as you explore.

When you are in the middle of something, you are less likely to be envious when other books get on lists or other authors get interviewed, because you are in the midst of your own love affair, even if it is a tumultuous one.

Why am I pointing out the obvious?

Because when we are in the middle, it’s not obvious.

In the middle, we often wish desperately to be done. We are obsessed with watching the word count increase, we are hungry for someone to read the whole thing and judge it as worthy. If we have redrafted several times and are in the middle of seemingly endless revisions, we often get sick of our own prose. It may seem like a signal, but it’s not. Everyone gets sick of their own pages or voice at some point.

Given how we fail to appreciate the very best stages of writing, I thought I’d write this post to remind you –and myself!—that wherever you are, it’s a good place.

If you’re in the beginning, as I am once again: A great place to ask yourself, what do I care about most? What is worth all the hours ahead? What needs saying? What can only you—based on your experiences, your obsessions, your unique perspective—say?

Or maybe you aren’t looking for a challenge, you are simply looking for delight. Something to spark your curiosity or lighten your step. You get to choose. No forms to fill out; no permissions to be sought. That’s the best thing about being back at the beginning. It’s your show. (By the way, some people ask me if it ever gets easier, starting a new book. No, it doesn’t.)

If you’re in the middle, you have created a world! You have a foundation! You’ve proven your stamina. The path has been chosen and it may still branch out in difficult ways, forcing you to make hard decisions. But you will. Just keep going!

If you’re near or at the end of a first draft, this is another favorite place of mine, because now you can do a full print-out, or send the book to your e-reader to re-read in a different format or font. I hope you’ll treat yourself really well, maybe even schedule a few days of quiet time in a new location. Now you get to read from page one to the end, and see what you’ve got. Be kind to yourself and be demanding of your pages! (And when you’ve learned how to do both simultaneously, please let the rest of us know.)

If you’re in the endless revision zone: This can be grueling, but it’s where some of the best learning happens, and where the wannabes are separated from the stoic survivors. Others will quit here. You. Will. Not.

If you have finished and not yet started anything new, this is a wonderful time to catch up on all the reading you put off while working on your own draft. For fun, during one of these post-submission quiet periods, I once pulled a dozen favorite novels off my shelves and re-read only the beginnings, one after another, as a way to re-open my eyes to diversity and possibility.

How long have I managed to remain in this blissful, don’t-need-to-work-write-or-create zone? Only a week.

But what if you are in none of these places? Wanting to write, but with no early pages, not deeply in the middle, not at the revision stage either?

Pre-writing is an important stage, too, and it deserves our respect and appreciation. Pre-writing is a time to take in the world, to create opportunities for distraction-free thinking, to read with purpose, to get organized, or maybe to take a class to get yourself revved up and inspired.

Even if you’re not actively writing, you can still take concrete steps to give this phase structure. Write up some weekly goals. Block off one- or two-hour chunks for getting organized. Give yourself some deadlines, even if they are deadlines for making an idea map or informal outline of some kind. Start a process journal in which you record your thoughts and questions. Don’t tell yourself this isn’t “writing.” It is.

Wherever you are, try to celebrate it. I’m doing the same. Inching my way closer to the middle of the next thing and reminding myself neither to delay nor hurry, to be kind to myself and the next tender new idea.


Andromeda Romano-Lax is the author of six novels and a book coach/developmental editor with openings for new summer clients. Her latest publication is The Deepest Lake, a mother-daughter suspense novel set in Guatemala.

2 thoughts on “The Joy of the Middle: Finding Writing Contentment Wherever You Are by Andromeda Romano-Lax”

  1. Thanks for the good advice for keeping the writing going, book after book after book.

    Also, my local library (in Alabama) carries The Deepest Lake, so I read it and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Yes, I would like to receive emails from 49 Writers, Inc.. Sign me up!

By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: 49 Writers, Inc.. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

Scroll to Top