At this time six years ago, Libby the Dog, Sid the Cat, and I were halfway through our three-month stint on Orcas Island, and I was 100 pages into Aret. By the time we left Orcas, I’d written a raw first draft, though it was more of a blurry blueprint than a book. Four years later, I published a better version. The other night, I completed a MUCH better version. Now, it’s in the hands of a group of editors, and I get to step away from revision-mode, which is a huge relief.
My youngest nephew is three. When he attempts a task without immediate success, he pitifully cries, “I can’t!” But because he’s a resilient little guy, he keeps trying, and when he succeeds (usually within about five seconds), he joyfully exclaims, “I did it!” That 180-degree emotional shift is something I experienced about ten thousand times during Aret’s grueling rewrite. I’d hit a phrase, sentence, or paragraph that stopped me dead, decide I was the worst writer in history and a complete idiot to think I could write a whole goddamn book, and seriously consider smashing my computer. Then I’d keep trying, fix the problem, and think, I did it! I do know how to write! Yay!
When I finished Aret’s first draft, if someone had mentioned how long it would take to complete the final edit, I might’ve thrown the manuscript in the trash. Six years is quite a stretch of time, and a lot has changed since 2012. Loved ones have been gained and lost. Much of my hair has turned white. My husband and I have begun the debate I remember my parents having throughout my childhood: You’re Going Deaf vs. You’ve Started Mumbling. A wrist brace has been added to my already super-sexy nighttime routine (mouthguard + earplugs + wrist brace = HOT). And I’ve gone from watching bald eagles outside my cottage on Orcas to having a Harris’ hawk perch on my hand.
Several weeks back, when I mentioned to my sister that I was editing Aret, she replied with this text: What. Are. You. Talking. About. Why oh why would you do that to yourself??? She had a good point. But now that the travail is over, I feel like my nephew with his beatific smile, glorying in an accomplishment that once seemed impossible. I suppose that’s another thing that’s changed since 2012: I have a new role model who’s three years old.
[P.S. ~ If your takeaway from this post was: Hey, I want a hawk on my hand, too! and you happen to be in Western North Carolina, you can experience an afternoon of falconry here: http://curtiswrightoutfitters.com/falconry/. It is truly amazing.]