Saturday, March 8, 2014

So, why all the tears?

I just finished my sixth novel.
And by finished, I mean completed the first draft. There’s still a long way to go.
So why am I blubbering tears and snot all over my laptop in a humiliating, hiccup-y, ugly cry?
This is the sixth time I have wondered that very thing.  
In Jr. High, I was in a production of “A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream.” I remember the hours of rehearsals, memorizing lines, costuming and then finally presenting onstage. After it was over, a lot of the cast cried. Why did we do this? We weren’t disappointed in our performance. We all knew that it would end, and yet, being involved so deeply in something for months at a time had made it part of our lives. We cared about it and worked hard and formed a bond with the material and with each other that was strangely sad once the curtain dropped for the last time.
That is the closest thing to explaining why mascara tears are dripping off my chin.
Do artists feel this way when they finish a painting? Do wedding planners feel like this when their giant assignment is over and the happy couple rides away? I don’t know. But I imagine they do.
A cry could just be cathartic after a project ends. But I wonder if it is something more.
A writer invests herself so deeply in a story, researching, digging deep into her characters’ past, emotions, relationships, and working for months to make them come alive. And then, just when they’ve started to grow on you, when you’ve figured out how their story ends, they don’t need you anymore.  It’s time to move on to the next thing.  And the entire process was so overwhelming and difficult. Pouring your heart into the pages, and then hating it, deleting and pouring again.
Reading, re-reading, polishing, cutting, re-writing, and hoping it’s your best work, then sending it off to an editor, and she takes a turn.
And this time for some reason, it strikes a little deeper as my oldest son is preparing to leave home. Just when he’s starting to grow on me, when I’m starting to understand his quirks and when he’s not an obnoxious teenager anymore, but sort of a fun friend, he doesn’t need me anymore. And it’s time for him to move on.
And I wish I could backspace to when he was smaller, or delete all the dumb scenes where I was an underdeveloped character. But deep down, I am happy and proud and I know the world will be better with him in it. And I hope they will be gentle in their critiques, because I am sending in my best work.

So, today I will just allow myself a little more time to cry slurpy ugly tears. And feel the weird mixture of pride and sorrow that I can’t explain.


  1. This brings tears to my eyes. What a beautiful metaphor for what you're feeling as your son grows older and prepares to leave. I haven't actually met you, but (I think through Sarah), we became Facebook friends, and I somehow feel like I know you. Thank you for this amazing glimpse into your life!

  2. Holy cow, now I'm crying! That was beautiful, Jen, and very astute. I think you've hit the nail on the head with the tears-at-the-end-of-a-project thing.

  3. What beautiful thoughts and so well expressed. I gave you some of my best work and you have made him better. You are amazing.