Finished (or, wanting two things and only getting one)

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.

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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!)

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This is where I sat and cried my little heart out. Thankfully there was no one around but a bull moose, and he was thoughtful enough to ignore my ill-timed emotional outburst.

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.

Thanks for reading! To return to the FICTION WRITERS BLOG HOP on Julie Valerie’s Book Blog, click here: http://www.julievalerie.com/fiction-writers-blog-hop-aug-2015

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19 thoughts on “Finished (or, wanting two things and only getting one)

  1. First, congratulations on finishing the rewrite! I know what a big deal that is. And good for you for figuring out what you needed to do and doing it. That is no small thing, either. Please drop me a line if I can take you out for a pasta lunch to celebrate. 🙂

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    1. Ohhh, I’d love a pasta lunch! I have family here and then I’m off to Portland to visit my son (so bittersweet, they grow up so damned fast). Let’s get together when I get back, okay? Big hugs, and take care.

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  2. Just thank you. I can enjoy reading your writing but I just know I wouldn’t really enjoy your running. It exhausts me wondering about the strength.

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  3. Congrats! Thank you for all your hard work. It is much harder to be soft than tough, but I hadn’t ever really thought about that. Says the girl who makes inappropriate jokes during emotional times. So happy for you!

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  4. Congratulations on getting your book down and off to your agent. It is too bad you had to let go of the 50-mile race, but you were right to do so. It was what you needed to do at the time and you can feel good about your sacrifice because you did finish your book! And at least, you did run. I’d be more worried if you had given up running altogether. There will be other races, but, you know, if they conflict with your writing schedule, maybe you should make up your own race. 🙂

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    1. Ah, Marie, it still hurts to think of missing the race. I ran a different one a few weeks later, totally bonked and ended up in the medical tent at mile 25. Just isn’t my summer for ultra races, I guess. But you’re right–there will always be other races. Big writerly hugs and I have a package for you, if I ever get to the post office (which is like only a mile from our house but for some reason I can’t seem to get there, which is terribly sad and pathetic but hey, we writers are like that, no?).

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      1. Oh, goody, I love packages! But … lol … Here you are a runner and yet you can’t get yourself to the post office a mile down the road 😸 I can relate to that as can my friends who receive belated birthday cards from me 😉

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  5. I feel a bit selfish saying this first: I CANNOT WAIT TO GET MY HANDS ON THAT FREAKING BOOK! Because I know saying that means this is all about me and not about you, and you are what’s important right now, not me. (GIVE. ME. THAT. DAMN. BOOK.) Watching you push yourself to the finish line on this project (GIVE IT TO ME.) has been so inspirational. (RIGHT NOW. TELL YOUR AGENT TO HURRY THE FRICK UP.) I’ve loved your photographs; I’m in awe of your running life. But if I’m being truly honest, I’M SO STINKING HAPPY FOR YOU!!!

    But mostly, I’m happy for me.

    Because I loved Dolls Behaving Badly. And I know I’m going to love this book, too. I crave reading your words, Cinthia. I really do. And apparently, despite your stopping to spill it in the middle of Middle Fork Trail, this is all about me. Not you. But hey, it’s not my fault. You did this to me. You’re that good.

    Cheers, my friend. Cheers!

    🙂

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    1. I think I love you, Julie (Oh God, now that horrid old Bobby Sherman song “Julie Do You Love Me” is playing in my head). Thanks so, so much for the enthusiastic and supportive and wonderful comment. And yes, it is all about you, lol. I’ve been freaking out a bit about some of the changes the editor wanted me to make that I didn’t quite agree on. Now I’m obsessing that I ruined the book/changed the book/altered the tone, etc. It never, ever stops, does it? Regardless of my obsessive self-chatter, thanks so, so much for being such a great writing/bloggy friend. Big, big hugs, and a little bit of chocolate, too. Take care.

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      1. I’m just so happy for you. I remember a blog post you wrote way back when (2013?) discussing your thoughts about leaving fiction writing to return to journalism fulltime. I thought, “Noooo!!! Don’t stop writing fiction!” So happy to celebrate the writing life with you. It’s a crazy, uphill battle, eh?

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