Sometimes, inspiration hits at just the right moment. A couple of weeks ago, an acquaintance of mine published her first novel to widespread acclaim. We live in the same town and although our paths hadn’t crossed in years, there was no way I’d miss her appearance at our local bookstore, a mere 10-minute walk from my house. Listening to her read an excerpt in front of a standing-room-only crowd made me want to pull out a notebook, then and there, and start writing myself.
The timing of the reading could not have been better for me, as I had just finished planning out a daily schedule that I intended to start following religiously as soon as Chloe and Sophie returned to school. A schedule that I hoped would be more consistently achievable than my many past attempts.
The most promising, if not aspirational, new block of time in my calendar: a few hours every Friday dedicated to my own fiction writing. I wrote a very rough first draft of a young adult novel in 2013 that Chloe critiqued about a year ago. Since then, I’d periodically glance at the folder containing all 175 pages with oh-so-much guilt as it sat on my desk, unopened and essentially abandoned.
Given that I’ve mastered the art of procrastination but am still struggling mightily to prioritize and set aside time to achieve my creative writing goals, watching my neighbor proudly read from her(!) book energized me.
The following weekend, the day before the girls started school, I drafted an essay about Chloe entering high school. As I prepared to post it to my blog, however, I had a change of heart. Instead, I dumped the text into a Word document and pitched it to an online magazine. It was an impulsive move. I knew it was a longshot – it was the first time I ever proactively submitted an original piece anywhere.
I was on pins and needles for most of the week, convincing myself that – just as the likelihood of solving a murder decreases exponentially with each passing day – the likelihood my essay would be accepted also decreased exponentially with each passing day. My insecurities were getting the best of me.
While I waited to hear back from the website I had pitched, I worked. The girls survived their first week back to school and I survived my first week adhering to my new schedule. I diligently focused on my freelance projects on my freelance writing days. More important, I returned to my novel for the first time since the summer of 2014 and spent a couple of hours on Friday working on what is now officially known as “Novel Working Draft #2.”
Invigorated by my modest progress – I am fully aware that it may take me a decade to finish the book at my current pace – I went into the weekend feeling productive, if not quite optimistic that I’d finally managed to create a realistic schedule for myself.
By Friday evening, however, I still hadn’t heard back from the website about my essay and the lack of news was starting to weigh on me. Despite my growing sense of self-doubt, I did my best to remain confident, consoling myself that even if I received a ‘thanks, but no thanks,’ my blog would accept my essay with open arms.
The next morning, while waiting for Sophie to finish her weekly piano lesson, I had a look at my email. And I saw that a new message had arrived from the publication I had pitched. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and started to read, prepared for the inevitable rejection.
“Thanks so much for your piece. We like it and want to publish it.”
I reread the email. I glanced at the first paragraph a couple of more times to make sure I had read it correctly. I exhaled. And like a kid let loose in a candy shop, I laughed out loud and grinned.