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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.