I have a confession to make. I told my CP Sarah, because I couldn't stand keeping it from her. The contest entry deadline happened to be the last week of work before I was slated to go on vacation. Admittedly, I was feeling a little crazy. Long work days, lack of sleep, a pressing deadline and a neighbor who likes to blast an eccentric brand of music outside my window late at night were all contributing factors. So here it is: After having a finished, edited product, I went on a late night rampage and changed parts of it before I turned the entry in.
I post-edit tweaked. *blush of shame*
It was a late-minute attempt to make the entry better. I’d felt so discombobulated when drafting it that I didn’t think what I’d written was up to par.
I strive to write every evening, but the longer workdays are grueling and those are the times when the writing simply doesn’t happen. Those nights I barely get dinner before sleep becomes the main priority, but I do try. Even if it’s just fifteen minutes, it’s something. Sarah and I had twelve days to have our contest entries ready, and to our credit, I think we both performed well amid some big life disruptions.
And despite my neighbor’s impromptu party in the parking lot, my mind was already pretty locked up. I was tried, distracted and I felt like there was too much gazing going on in my entry. I sat staring at the screen thinking, “the words are reflecting the author...” I made last-minute changes and after reading it over with fresh eyes yesterday, I found that I’d some dropped words as well as made several receiver-versus-source adjective errors. Many of the problems stemmed from the changing of compound sentences into stand alone ones (removing the comma and adding a period), but still, I am afraid. I feel like I was rushed and I fear that what was submitted wasn’t my best work. But even if I’d had more time, I think the result would have been the same. I needed to stay focused and that was difficult.
And Sarah was wonderful; the initial draft was perfect, not a single error. She stayed up late in the night working on it with me.
And this got me thinking. The pressure is part and parcel of the job, isn’t it? Periodic insanity is listed in the job description?
As an author you have big commitments and serious time schedules for publication. There are days when you can’t wait for life to ease up or the muse to come; you have to hunt down the inspiration and get the job done.
Through this experience I got a taste of what that feels like and I gained a great respect for published writers who work with deadlines all the time. With the world as challenged as it currently is, it’s hard to keep your head in the story. Anxiety is palpable with today’s economy and it really takes skill to set aside your worries (whether it be family, finance, how well received you book will be) and stay in tune with the writing.
How do professional authors handle the stress? I wondered.
I’m sure my ten-pages-in-twelve-days contest must be a walk in the park in comparison to a full manuscript, but that’s what a published writer does. That’s what you accept if you want the career. And they have the good grace to rarely complain about it, or if they do, it’s in the privacy of their own home. (I wonder if my neighbor is going to report me for giving him the stink-eye. But, to be fair, music after 9pm is noise pollution, and to a night-writer it’s psychological abuse, so I say we’re even.)
I guess the secret is practice, lots of run through and dedication to the story.
And in the end, I don’t think my entry turned out bad. It had to be cropped down to ten pages and that was tough. The scene Sarah and I carved out was good; my couple’s first kiss. :0*
I know that it has its flaws but there is lots of gold in it as well, and with the talented folks looking at it, I'm flattered just to have it read.
And the overall experience will be beneficial. I'm going to gratefully accept every bit of feedback and moving forward I’m going to make an exercise of having certain parts of my manuscript finished by a set time. It’s a smart habit. You want to incorporate the tension into your daily routine, that way you’re used to it.
Don't let the pressure slow you down, instead use it to propel you forward.