Yesterday I finished my final final. Some may understand what I mean by this. It’s not what I thought was final when I submitted my manuscript to my publisher last December, and of which I signed a contract barely a week later. Nor is it the version I completed one month later, taking those few dozens of days to freshen my view. It also isn’t the version I submitted a month or so after I made yet a few more edits to my second group of “beta” readers, or the one I generated after considering and taking in their feedback. Nor will it be the final one my kind friends and followers will read next year: a version exhibiting perfect sentences, punctuation and tenses.
And for all this, in this moment I celebrate. I am learning, word by word, the more I write – ever so slowly I care the tiniest bit less what others think of my writing. I am learning to please myself – and though I naturally hope to sell books and get positive reviews and all that – I’m learning more about being true to what stories I carry inside. As popular as fantasy and dystopic novels may be, they are not what I find in my heart or my brain. Many other writers develop these stories, leaping from their neurons, and write them magnificently. And that is good. But not me. So for now – I can say – yes, I will work to improve how I write – but, today I feel good. And yes, I am proud and like what I’ve written. It’s really okay, if you don’t. And that too, is good.
It was December, 2016 when I completed my final final manuscript of My Music Man and clicked to send it to Bedazzled Ink. It was shortly after election results boomeranged many of us into deep despair; despair that might even have been deeper if we could also have foretold the future. My spouse’s mayor reelection, among the small glimmer of good in the 2016 elections, offered me continuing bundles of alone time. While not great for a relationship, it’s good for a writer. As I rejoiced in sending off My Music Man, I too felt loss. And in a moment, out of my past arose a story, from more than four decades prior. A memory of the note I wrote, placed into a bottle and out into the Willamette River current, and the package and reply I received half a year later. It sparked Beyond the Ripples – and, as with My Music Man -I couldn’t stop it. A novel!
And yesterday, the day I keyed my last “save,” it was only fitting to have my own synchronous moment. For when friends have asked me what my novel is about, the short answer is, synchronicity. Russ and I finally decided on a bike route, leaving our West Linn home, over the Arch Bridge, past the Clackamas River Trail, up the Trolley Trail, and further into Portland. At the last minute we turned down a certain Sellwood street, rather than one we might have ridden, an intersection complete with two kids selling lemonade. We rode past the stand, but made a U-turn shortly after – I like supporting kids and lemonade stands whenever possible. As we chatted with the kids and sipped the overly sweet lemonade, a woman gardening nearby identified me, came over, and we hugged immediately. A close friend from high school – one whose wedding Russ and I had attended long ago, and who I last saw over fifteen years prior. A friend I think about often, sad to have lost touch. And – it struck me. So many little decisions – what street to turn down, whether to have lemonade. The nuggets that happen each day, creating opportunities. And when we pay attention, I do believe it gives us hope, can make us feel community, and reminds us we are part of something bigger.