Last week was a really hard week for me.
I got sick for the second time in a month. While it wasn’t the awful flu that took me out a few days while on vacation in Walt Disney World, it was still not much better. An acute upper respiratory infection plus two ear infections. I’ve never had a cough this bad before that I can remember. It’s all-encompassing and worse when I sit up which made sitting and concentrating at a desk all week incredibly difficult.
I took off work Tuesday and left early on Wednesday. I made it through all of Thursday, just barely, and my emotional well-being deteriorated due to some things that happened at work that I wish I could go into but have done so privately enough to keep myself from doing so in a public forum. I went to urgent care where I got my diagnosis, four medications, and a doctor’s note to miss again on Friday. Then I went to sleep.
Despite being off work on Friday, I still took care of some things at home because I care about my job, knew I left some things open, and because I’m good at my job. But that apparently wasn’t enough and I had a minor breakdown about my job late Friday night into early Saturday morning that only succeeded in making me even sicker.
Sometimes there are things that you can’t control in the moment. I can’t control my job right now. I love my job. I love where I work. There are just some aspects about it that are making it difficult to remember all the things I love about it. I don’t want to look for another job. It’s an additional stress I don’t want in my life right now. Right now I’ve marked that the part of my life that is my job – a bit part considering that working 40 hours a week is pretty much the overarching feature of my job for the majority I’m awake – isn’t controllable at the moment. I can’t immediately change or fix or better that situation.
So my sickness, low moments, and frustration forced me to ask, what can I control right now?
It hit me: my novel. My current work-in-progress that I pounded out last November before falling into a stagnant slump through the rest of the winter and into the spring. It’s been a real struggle and I’ve hated it. I felt blocked or, rather, terrified of finishing. Sometimes I wondered what the point of finishing it is if all that would happen would be another round of rejections only to have to start all over again.
Unfortunately that part of my mindset didn’t change. What did change was the idea that I could control this, I could finish this novel. I could put that final period into place and have a completed draft. I knew that didn’t mean I was done. After all, I need to edit and revise and probably rewrite half of it but the story could be told and complete and I wouldn’t have this unfinished novel hanging over my head anymore. Everything that comes after that final period will still come.
Mid-morning on Saturday, I started to write. I didn’t do all that much. I finished a scene. I felt good. The scene worked and I was on a roll but I didn’t see it as near finished. I knew I was still a few thousand words away. My original target word count of 80K was thrown out a while ago but I hoped to get to 70K.
I think about writing sometimes by telling myself I just need to do it. Just write and write and stop thinking. But I struggle to do that. Sunday morning I struggled with even a few words. I saw so clearly what needed to happen, what needed to be written, and yet the words were slow to come.
Then, something clicked. Call it my bad week coming to a head. Call it all my frustrations pooled into my fingertips. Call it the need to control something positively in my life and set myself on a path to make a change. Whatever it was, I started writing and didn’t stop. I got to the end of a major scene and thought well, that’s enough for today. But then I realized that on Monday – today – I’d have to go back to work and hopefully not suffer through it and would I have the time or inclination to keep this writing thing in my grasp. So I kept writing. I kept writing until I finished the damn book.
I know that soon enough I’ll feel out of control again. I hate editing. I hate querying. Sending another labor of love out there and to be open to rejections is out of my control. I may think that this book could finally, really, truly be it for me, and yet it no one else agrees, then my feelings on that don’t matter.
But for two days and an absolutely wonderful moment of ease, clarity, and relief, I took control of myself and this book and I finished it.