How to make words

I finished a book last week. Finished writing the scenes and making all the changes and finding the proper quotes for the epigraphs on Friday, and then spent the weekend hunched like a gargoyle over my computer typing everything up so I could send the file to my agent and betas. Even a week out, I don't hate it, don't want to scrub the file from everyone's computer and light the manuscript pages on fire, which is pretty much a victory. And early feedback gives me hope that I did what I wanted to do with the writing.

The thing about writing a book, at least if you're me, is that the story takes up a lot of space in your head. (My head. Let's see if I can switch to first person here. That may not actually happen - during a phone call with my agent this week, there was a point where I said, "Look, I can't make words.") The story took up a lot of space in my head. For about the last six weeks of writing, I couldn't work on any other new fiction, couldn't even think about new stories.

When I finished writing, my head felt empty. I couldn't make words.

Whenever I finish a project, I always have a certain amount of fear that I'm really done. Not just done with that story, but all the way done. Like maybe we are all allocated a certain amount of stories, and I've just used all of mine up. Usually, I work on multiple projects at once, and a side benefit of that is that I have something in progress when I've finished something else, and so that keeps the voice that says "okay, you're finished" from getting louder than a whisper.

I get uncomfortable when I'm not working. I don't necessarily mean when I'm not actively writing, but I like having stories in the back of my head. 

There are seventeen books stacked next to my desk right now, research that I did for the book I just finished. And these are just the seventeen that got used a lot. I could probably pull that many again off the shelves in my apartment. I had barely been putting anything else into my head. It's no wonder that when I finished writing, there was nothing else in there to come out.

So I'm trying to rebuild the part of my brain that writes stories. I am reading poetry, and complicated prose, so I can remember how to write a world into being. I am reading nonfiction - on music, and on cities, and on creation - so I find the small bits of strangeness and spaces between that are the beginnings of stories. I am looking at photography and listening to music so that I can pick the art apart in my head, and put it back together on the page.

I am remembering how to make words.