I’m one of those people who plans. I love lists. I love checking things off on those lists. I love figuring out a plan of attack, step by step, and I love the joy of implementing that plan and watching it unfold exactly the way it should.
Last summer, the novel I’m querying got a R&R (revise and resubmit) request from an agent, which involved a substantial rewrite, and it was daunting at first. But I started making lists. I made bullet-point outlines of the things that needed to change and where they needed to go, and over the course of three months I completely overhauled the book. I finished exactly when I meant to, and sent it back to the agent right at my self-imposed deadline. Sadly, it ended in rejection, but the good news was that an agent cared enough about my book to offer a thoughtful critique, and I had a stronger manuscript to query.
Now I’m facing a similar situation. More thoughtful critique, another R&R. No problem. The last rewrite took me about three months, I should be able to do this one in two. I did a little additional research and got ready to revise my already kick-ass book (if I do say so myself) into something even more kick-ass. Transcendently kick-ass, even.
But it’s not going as smoothly this time. Instead, life is happening.
When I got the R&R, I was still recovering from the thyroidectomy I’d had two weeks before. My recovery was going well, and I was pleased that they’d only found a “small speck” of cancer that didn’t require any further treatment. But I was still getting by on a couple of naps a day. There were still days that firing up my laptop was too much trouble, and instead I snuggled down into pillows, watching Netflix on my phone. Eventually, the ideas started coming together, and slowly the bullet-point lists started taking shape. But actual writing, which required concentration and brainpower, wasn’t happening.
After a few more weeks, the painkiller fog had cleared away from my brain, leaving the general fatigue of the thyroid-less. I got back to exercising, which helped my energy levels, and words started to appear on the screen again. I was ready. All set for a writing weekend.
You know the old saying “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans”? Well, no sooner had I tweeted about my plans for a marathon writing session on a Saturday night than my elderly dog had a stroke. Less than four hours later she was gone. Safe to say that writing was the last thing on my mind that night, or for the next few days. But at the same time, the guilt was piling up in the back of my mind. Whither my bullet-point lists? This draft isn’t writing itself! Why can’t I get this done?
I’ve learned a lot these past few weeks. No, I’m probably not going to make my self-imposed deadline. And that’s okay. Instead, I’m taking our remaining pup (an also-elderly cattle dog who is sad at the loss of his packmate) on long walks after work, because he needs the companionship and I need the exercise. I’m focusing on my health, and realizing that my new, thyroid-less self needs more sleep than the old me did. The book is still percolating in my head. The writing will come.
Until then, it’s okay to live life for a little while. Puppies are fleeting, and even a “speck” of cancer makes you grateful for every day you have. The work will always be there. But I think I need to let life happen for a bit.