Today I finished the first full revision of a manuscript that took about nineteen months. In these last few weeks I found myself going slower, sinking deeper into the words. I didn’t really want it to end. Ending meant releasing, letting go, becoming vulnerable, separate. That feels like a thick burning in my gut.
These words have been with me for more than two years, I’ve never been more than a hundred feet from them. The manuscript syncs from my laptop to my iPad to my phone. I could work on them anywhere, anytime. But I didn’t. Instead, every single day I’ve set a rigorous practice, found intentional space and committed to periods of time. I use word counts and timers and accountability with noble friends and professional coaches who became noble friends. Our time together, this work and me, has become something I don’t know how to Iive away from and I’m scared.
I cried some, laughed a lot and one hundred times thought the entire project so dumb and my talent so hideous I literally couldn’t imagine why I was continuing. In those times, I just kept going as my friends would point out hating yourself and your work is a sacred right of passage for any writer.
Finishing the first full revision has nothing to do with being done, but it is the finish of the work being mostly just mine. Now it goes to others and my ugliness and beauty will be hung out like wet clothes on a line between two New York City apartments.
I sat for a moment this morning and imagined if all these words were still just bottled up inside me. I imagined all the time returned to me. What might I have done with those words and that time? I imagined people who might see my ugliness and beauty now, what they will think, how they’ll consider me and mostly I wonder, will I be able to look them in the eye when we meet? I’ve decided, when this beautiful ugly work comes back to me for another round of revision, that’s the ultimate truth revealing question I’ll ask myself over and over and over and over again; Will I be able to look them in the eye when we meet?
“You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.”
― Saul Bellow