Monday, July 27, 2009

A Message from the Birthday Queen

I know I'm getting older because time has become this quick, cruel trickster. Even though individual days or certain weeks can feel like lifetimes, the general passage of time seems to have sped up incredibly.

If I had to describe the last year in one word, I think I'd have to go with challenging. Sometimes, the challenges were of the good variety, like adopting Callie or starting a new job. Other times, they were decidedly unhappy, like losing Peter's mom and having serious problems at the old job. I'm still more inclined to "punch the puncher" than roll with the punches, but I'm proud that I got through this year mentally intact and no worse for wear.

This is the year that I learned how to enjoy the process, instead of fixating on the final product. Revising had always been my least favourite part of writing. I was impatient and stubborn. I wanted to get things right the first time.

Peter had been bugging me to market my first book, but I'd been resistant because I knew it had some problems. I finally buckled down and made the changes I thought were needed. He and his sister were awesome test readers. His sister went above and beyond when she did a bit of clever networking and got my book in the hands of a real-life publishing professional.

The result was a stellar rejection. Instead of the publishing world equivalent of “it's not you, it's me”, I received a gift of a rejection: a short note that laid out the problems with the work and offered suggestions on how to fix it.

I'm deep in the thick of that process right now and I can tell you, it's not easy. But in appreciating this opportunity, I am learning to enjoy the process.

When I sit down to Work on a Book or Begin a Project, I can often feel myself tensing up. I want to get it right. Or I worry because I don't have a full plot. These tendencies have made writing seem like a scary, nervewracking chore sometimes.

But then I discovered writing exercises, which have allowed me to relax and just enjoy trying to tell a story. I've always been good at stringing words together. Now I'm learning how to create scenes that tell a story. I'm learning which details add to a story and which detract. I'm learning that words are good, but they're not enough by themselves. In the last few months, I've written over 170,000 words and it's been pure joy.

My goal for next year is to work on following through. I've noticed an alarming pattern in my work. I get into the 100-120 page range, a bit past half-way, and I melt down. At this moment, I have four works-in-progress that I abandoned at that point. I don't know why that's become my wall, but I intend to either go around it or burst through it this year.

But first, I am going to enjoy the process of being the Birthday Queen. On tap for today is a run, a trail ride, a visit to a pet farm, lunch at the Lake Hotel in Killarney, some time with the doggetts and a movie.