I have several options now. Or at least I thought I did. With fire singeing my ass, I consider immediately beginning the next novel, alternating my time with re-writing this first beloved work. I want to go on every retreat for a five hundred mile radius, the New York writers’ conference in January, Hockley Valley with Barbara Turner in March, Banff in the spring, and the Humber School in the summer. I look in the mirror and shake my head. I look at my bank account and cry.
On my back in Srvasana in yoga, I sink into stillness, my spine in intimate relationship with the floor. I breathe. And then I return to my work.
On Tuesdays, I give massage treatments in Toronto, with a two-hour drive home in rush hour traffic at the end of the day. My dear friend, Lucinda, accompanies me for most of these treks home, ever since I invested in a hands-free headset. She is a writer, free-lance editor and a kick-ass friend. She is my Zen stick. In the beginning, when she gave me solicited feedback, I wished I could un-solicit it. It was tough, and I would fight her, defend myself, spiral into paralysis, suspect her of any number of nasty intentions, and then work through whatever scene or issue she had brought to my attention, and see that she was correct; was in fact, pointing me in a direction where the flora was bountiful and the fauna had meaning. I was tender and new and took everything personally.
Now, these conversations are thrilling. Lucinda has an eye and an ear that look and hear into deep soul truths. A cigar is never just a cigar, I’m afraid. She suggests that I want to do all these things all at once because I am afraid. Now, I don’t try to pretend that I am not afraid. But naming it caused a shift. Relief. Yes, I’m afraid that it will be too difficult, afraid of exposure, of success, of failure, and so on. And the more I work at this, the more afraid I become. Such an intense responsibility. To complete it, to promote it, to answer for it, to explain it. Me. Myself. And I. On trial. This is literary fiction after all – it means something.
And so... in our conversation, when I spoke of working on the next novel at the same time as rewriting this one, dear Lucinda grew silent. How will you do that? she asked at last. The rewrite will require more attention, focus and work than the first draft. My turn to grow silent. What? She urged me to consider that every scene needs to be perfectly crafted and deeply understood by me. What good would there be in having a second novel come out on the heels of a so-so first novel? Time to get my priorities straight. Oh yes. After the initial internal moan, I recognized that once again, that girl has the perspective I lack. Or haven’t yet developed. My optimistic temperament tends to colour everything in pretty shades, and this was no different: I imagined that the second draft was going to be a walk in the park, followed by a picnic. Hard work? Not my favourite kind of work. However, writing IS my favourite kind of work, so I’m rolling up my sleeves in order to give this, my first beloved novel, everything I have to make it exquisite. To make it sing. To make it resonate. To make it... well, you get the picture.
I can’t quit my day job just yet, but I do need to curb my appetite for all things literary. A critiquing group: check, Ontario Writers’ Conference: check, monthly Sanctuary Sundays: check, writing with friends once every two weeks: check, long solitary hours perfecting my work: check. Everything else: unchecked. Thanks, Lucinda.