I woke up at 3:30 am on Sunday morning. The fire was out and the house was cold. In my bathrobe, I padded to my computer to check. The contest was still open. I went through the manuscript again and found a slew of errors. My eyeballs hurt. My head was heavy. I did not cry, though I could have. Instead, I went to work. Hours later, just as I was uploading the most recent corrections (two sentences that could have been a little better) the contest closed. I cried then. Will those few changes make a difference? I doubt it, but I was still crushed. Too many hours over too many days and I was a basket case.
Yesterday, I couldn’t move. I spent the entire day watching movies and sipping whiskey. There was a hole inside me where my manuscript had been, bleeding and ragged around the edges. What do I do now? I have never been good at waiting. It makes me feel out of control, powerless, and vulnerable.
I know you are all probably tired of hearing about my new novel. Honestly, so am I. I am exhausted. My eyeballs still hurt and I think it will be awhile before I read anything lengthy. Still, the exercise was radical. The thing is, I have almost no chance of winning this competition. I know this. I knew it going in and did it anyway. In all probability, I might not make it past the first cut and the judges might not ever see the results of all my hard work.
So why did I do it?
Because I wanted to see if I could. Because doing something partially is not worth doing at all. And in the end, it was cathartic. Cutting away the words I had crafted so carefully was like cutting away unnecessary baggage in my life. During this time, bills went unpaid, email went unanswered, the phone went to voicemail. Today, I am paying for this and discovering just how many urgent things got overlooked.
Do you know what? None of them matter very much. You see, while I was writing and editing and rewriting, I was also writing, editing, and rewriting the script of my life. So today, when I emerged from my den and felt the snow on my eyelashes, shivered in my truck, and fired up the regular computer at my other office, I did it with joy. Oops, over-drew an account. Not the end of the world. Oops, missed a friend’s birthday party I had promised to attend. Ok, belated and extravagant gift and apology on the way. Oops, forgot to respond to an email and lost an opportunity to be a guest on someone else’s blog. Oh well.
What did I discover?
I discovered that most of my stress is self-imposed. The world keeps spinning, the dogs keep barking, the email keeps showing up in my inbox. My family still loves me, though I am fairly sure they are glad that I am showering again, and everything that I had thought was urgent suddenly isn’t. Even if I’m cut in the first round, this awareness is worth the effort I gave. It is so easy to forget that I write the lines of my life and get to decide what is worth my energy. Glad, for a change, that I spent it where I did.