Today I was set on revising my manuscript about living in Greece. This time I would really do it. House to myself. Heater on, giving me that added little hug of cosiness. Green tea. After scouring two separate storage devices, I finally found the document. Out of the many half-revised versions I had begun then dropped, this one had been smartly labelled, “USE THIS.” (Yes!) I hadn’t opened it since 2009. It had been almost three years since I had the courage to open this book I had spent five years writing.
As I scanned the pages, I was pleasantly surprised by certain standout sentences, reminding me I actually could write the kind of work that was important to me. But all too soon did The Editor in my head arrive to tell me differently: “This is going to be massive work. What if you put all that work into revising this and still no one wants to publish it? All that work when you could have been working on something else.” And then I had to laugh, because The Editor never lets me work on anything else. It edits before I can even begin. Dredges up all the other ideas I’d ever considered but never started, and waves them in front of me all at once. I feel helpless, with all of these thoughts I don’t know what to do with. Somehow they all have to fit together or they mean nothing. Whatever these ideas are to become, it has to be a book because it’s the only way I will have achieved.
I wish I knew where this came from. After all, I’ve been blessed with family and friends who have showered me with encouragement and even compliments on my craft. So what gives? Was it the Bye Bye Birdie musical tryouts or the editorial section cartoonist position in high school that were both given to someone else? Or the rejection letters from literary agents who didn’t feel my manuscript was right for them?
I’m embarrassed to admit I sometimes feel like an American Idol reject, hopelessly grasping for another chance to sing: No really, I can do this, I swear. Listen just a little more…
Is it all about the validation for me?
Or the fact I just can’t let this book go. I just can’t help it. My manuscript is, literally, a piece of my life. A real-life recording of one year in Athens. An adventurous, heartbreaking, shocking, fantastical, meaningful, life-changing period of time that nobody knows about other than my creative nonfiction professor and a handful of writing students. A story—my story—that helped me experience through and through what it meant to be an artist, the moment each word magically appeared onto paper with such intent, as though meant to be.
There is a time I miss. I miss that whole period in Athens and even the two years that followed, when I believed this book would make it to bookstore and library shelves. Without a doubt. And because I believed it – no, I knew it – so did everyone else. I remember telling them, I don’t know when exactly it will happen, but it will. And then even my dear Greek friends began emailing and asking when. And then I sent out the query letters. The proposals. And then nothing. Or something like, We’re sorry but your book isn’t right for us. Best of luck.
And then time transported me to a new place. After all those years of writing, my attention was mysteriously steered toward living. Something inside must have known I needed a break. I worked freelance so I could travel back to Greece, Bali, Malaysia, Thailand and Australia. I fell in love twice—the second time was the charm—and we made it official. I moved to Australia to live, work and love with my Greek cat, no less—the shadow of Athens that won’t let me forget the story that turned my life in a completely unexpected direction:
Opening my mind to travel. Showing me what real love really involves in a relationship. Teaching me about giving. And what really can happen when you take chances on life, the great adventure.
Sometimes people tell me all of these things would involve some kind of courage. And if I can just find it once again, maybe I can finally make the decision about that manuscript, once and for all.
And move on.