There is an event that happens after the completion of every novel. It’s how you know the novel is complete. It doesn’t matter if you turned it in to your editors or your agent. You’ll know you’re done because you’ll develop the syndrome.
The dreaded End of Novel.
EON onset is deceptive. You’re filled with insane joy and euphoria. It’s probably something about endorphins and hormones and definitely adrenaline. In my experience it lasts a maximum of twelve hours, though the first time it may have had longer hang-time. I don’t remember. That was a long time ago. But yes, the first few hours are amazing. This is the time to party, to look like a dick on the Internet, to draft those idiot speeches about your humble brilliance for the imaginary awards you can already see on the horizon. Or, if you’re practical, clean your house. It’s slightly more lasting than the effects of the Internet dick time and the awards, but it might make your family forget how much you ignored them during the actual novel completion. In any event, you’re going to need the bonus points for when the onset wears off.
Stage two is not so bad. It doesn’t feel like depression yet, but it does feel like a hamster is running about in your neurons and chewing on random wires. If you chose the cleaning route, you’ve cleaned everything at this point and are mentally charting out the military action plans you’ll use to make sure this kind of filth never happens again. If there’s any lingering euphoria/hormones/idiocy, you might be tempted to believe you’ll follow through. All this is irrelevant. The twitchy, antsy feeling is also fleeting, even shorter than stage one. Before twenty four hours have passed, you will move into full EON.
It’s depression, really. But that’s the boring term. Everyone gets depression. Lows follow highs. It’s life. But not writers. Writers get EON. Writers have overly developed senses of drama. Writers are not capable of going, “Oh, good. The intense activity is over. I’ll rest now and recharge, and soon this will pass as it always does.” I suppose it’s theoretically possible some writers do this.
Not this one.
I loathe EON. I resist its onset, try to escape it, and then when I cannot avoid it I moan and whine and flop about on metaphorical fainting couches with my pale, slender wrist draped decoratively over my eyes. (It is metaphorical, so I can have whatever kind of wrists I want.) I try many, many times to restart the engines too early, thinking this time I can short-change EON, but it never works, never quite like I want. The muses go on vacation, and I lop around in despair until they come back. They come back just shortly after I’m convinced they will never return. This is how we play the game.
I am in EON now because I finally, nearly two months late, have finished The Pirate’s Game for reals this time and have turned it in to my editor. I turned it in once before and then a beta (thank you Mr. Suede) said, “BABY WHAT THE FUCK” and so I took it back and banged my head against it some more. And now it really is done. It has the done feeling to it. I had the euphoric whee and now I am having the crash. It’s real. It’s happened.
It’s fucking EON.
I have multiple unfinished works I can and should pick up. Nothing is contracted now, THANK GOD, so there’s no real pressure, just artificial. I have some scheduling aspects to consider between the various ponds I fish in, though there’s also the temptation of “which would be done fastest?” Though don’t forget the whole “ought to” pile.
Today as I went to the chiropractor and the staff did the whole, “Oh, it’s Monday, isn’t it,” gig, expecting I would play along, I realized that I don’t play along. I like to work, as long as it’s this work. Weekends are fun because they’re always family even when Dan works, but I love Mondays because it means I go back to writing. Even when it’s driving me insane and I’m bitching to Marie until she wants to vomit, I still love it. I want to do it more than I want to do anything else. I don’t even know why. I just do. It’s some sort of deranged compulsion.
This is why EON is so horrible. The EON moments are dull. Flat. Monotone. The during-novel times, even when nasty, are full of life and living for me. I never want to leave them, but during the recharge time, I must, and I resent the recharge time with my whole being.
I chose the cleaning route this time, and today I hit the desire to militarize the cleaning procedures right on schedule. I took mild notice of it and then let it flitter off to a corner to gnaw on its own hand a bit. And then I stood there in the center of the kitchen with nothing to do but laundry, a good life and minimal physical pain and adequate food and clothing and a happy child and good husband and all the things you’re meant to want, and I had a cold, aching moment where I knew, down to my core, that if I could not tell stories it would be a living death.
I did mention EON was a dramatic mess.
It was just fleeting, anyway, because I’ll always tell stories. I always have, even to myself. Right now I’m just impatiently waiting for the calliope’s drum to rewind so we can play more tunes. I suppose I could be more elegant about it, but I’m not. I’m impatient for traffic lights, for dryers, for microwaves, for boiling kettles. I don’t like sitting still. I don’t like EON. I watched the episode of Sherlock the other day where he tears around the flat going mad because he doesn’t have a case. The next best thing to a case is a cigarette. (It’s so true.)
EON will pass. By my calcuations I have another day or two, max, before I begin to believe that will never happen, and within a week the crazy despair will turn to mania and in a dramatic fit of mental flailing, I’ll land on a manuscript, the music will start, and I’ll soar into the lofty heights of the Deluded Genius of the Beginning, where I’m convinced this time this novel will practically write/finish/whatever itself, it’s so good.
Or maybe something different will happen. But probably not.