I finally finished my novel (Waiting For My Daughter’s Ghost) rewrite. It took me over three months, countless sleeplessness nights and too many damned tears.
I wrote the best book that I could. I gave it all of my energy, time, emotions and heart. I bled for my book, I bled happily and freely and unabashedly.
I finished in an 18-hour writing binge that lasted all night and long through the next day. I barely moved or ate or even visited the bathroom (remember that scene from Grey’s Anatomy where Cristina says she wants to do a surgery so long that she has to wear a diaper? Well, I didn’t wear a diaper but I almost kind of/sort of wished that I could have).
After I sent the finished version off to my agent, I stumbled upstairs, ate a big bowl of pasta and veggies, and went to bed. I got up hours later, ate some more and went back to bed (this is what they call the exciting life of a writer).
So the good news is that I finished my novel, and I’m happy with the results.
The bad news is that I sacrificed a good part of the summer to do so. And living in Alaska, with only three months of prime mountain running/hiking time, that’s no small thing.
I also gave up the 50-mile race I had been training for. I did this after months and months of grueling long runs with killer elevation gains, and I did this in order to concentrate my energies on my writing.
I learned the hard way that you can’t concentrate your full energy on two different tasks at the same time, or at least not tasks that require so much of one’s energy.
I also learned that in order to write this particular book (which is about death and a stillborn child and loss and regret), I had to allow myself to be vulnerable. I had to peel off my layers and become soft and mushy. And I had to remain that way even after I stopped writing.
Yet, in order to run long distances with killer elevation gains, I had to be tough and fierce. I had to dig down deep and allow myself to be physically tough and welcome physical pain, and I had to do so while hardening myself against slowing down or quitting.
When I began crying during runs, when I found myself sitting down in the middle of the Middle Fork Trail (but oh, how beautiful it was out there that day!), doubled over and weeping my heart out, I realized that I couldn’t do both: I couldn’t be physically tough and emotionally vulnerable at the same time. Which made me cry even harder because I wanted to be able to do both. (Oh, how cruel it is to face our own limitations!)
So I gave up the race. I kept on running, of course (I’ll always keep on running), but I dialed it way, way back. The moment I made that decision, my writing took off. I felt more focused, more confident, more attuned to what I needed to do.
I know this decision was right for my writing. I know that there will be other races. I also know that I’m a much better writer than I am a runner. Still, missing that race kind of broke my heart a little bit. And it still kind of does.
I think that this as a good lesson in commitment and reality and the realization that when you go after your dream, you might have to give up or put on hold other, lesser dreams (though trust me, they won’t feel lesser at the time). I understand this now. And really, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I don’t think I could have written the book that I did if I hadn’t of made the choices that I made.
Still, sometimes late at night when I close my eyes before sleep, I imagine myself out in the mountains running in that 50 mile race, and I feel such a combination of fierce joy and loss that I can barely stand it.
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