Put a sleep cycle on it…

It’s safe to say that one of the hardest and most significant lessons I’ve learned in my journey as a writer up until now, is the importance of being patient.  In my ‘day job’ (aka the one that currently helps to pay the bills), ‘put a sleep cycle on it’ is a technique used often in conflict resolution.  I’m not sure where the phrase started, but it means put your thoughts down on paper, and then step away.  The following day, revisit your work with a less emotional view and then proceed. Very rarely is that first draft or decision the route you decide to take.  A better, more effective course of action almost certainly emerged, and it’s all thanks to a good night sleep. Here in my writing world, I’m starting to understand that more than just ‘good practice’ it needs to become my mantra.  As eager as I am, to share my creation with the world, time is not the enemy.  Time, in fact, it should become my dearest friend and closest ally.  The longer I chip away at my current project, the better it gets.  I deeply regret each and every time I have submitted it before now.  I cringe when I think of the publishing houses that read my sub-par work.  I owe the agents who read my earlier revisions in their slush pile an apology. In all of those over eager submissions, I did myself a disservice, my beloved manuscript an injustice and wasted the time of people I am trying desperately to impress.

This is such a struggle for me because stepping away is painful.  After a good session of writing, closing my computer and shutting off my brain sometimes feels impossible.  Like a proud parent, over-posting pictures of my kids on social media, I want to share my story with the world.  Up until this point, I am a strange mix-breed of ‘self-taught’ and ‘winging it’.  (I say that out of envy of those who did study Children’s Literature.)  My education took me in a very different direction than where I’m headed now.  Though I love the career path that has filled the past 10 years, I am acutely aware that there is so much I don’t know in regards to the publishing industry.  In fact, I worry that I don’t even know how much I don’t know.  This ignorance is not bliss, this ignorance is scary.  When I think back to the very beginning of this journey, however, I wish someone had told me, (or more likely, I wish I had read somewhere) “HOLD ON!  Don’t send it yet.  I know you think it’s good but it’s not quite there yet.  You need to wait. Wait some more.  Read it again. Write it again. Wait. More Waiting. More writing. And repeat… like 5 times.”  If I’m honest with myself, I’m sure that I DID read that somewhere, it was just sugar coated and easy to overlook. I needed it in bold, italics, underlined in 72pt font highlight in red.

This manuscript is my first venture in this new line of work; my first born child if you will.  I know that 20 years from now, I won’t love this one any more than my other books. (Thinking positively!)  If I’m lucky, however, I will have the painful, awkward, fumbling memories of figuring it out.  This book and others have been years in the making. Much of that time, I had nothing more than a ‘feeling’ that there was a story I need to tell.  (Maybe I don’t need to explain that to you, if you’ve found your way here, then there’s a good chance you understand.) As it continues to take shape, I know that there are other mistakes on my horizon.  Likely, some mistakes will be even more consequential than those first ill-fated submissions.  As I approach ‘completion’ on my project, (I use the term loosely) I am a little older, a little wiser, and a lot more aware of how many pieces are in this puzzle.  In the mean time, I’ll continue to chip away at it, puzzle pieces, sleep cycles and all, keeping my eye on the (published) prize.  I promised myself that I cannot hit ‘send’ until I’ve slept on it and someone else has read it, providing me with some honest feedback. (Thank goodness for sisters and their loving, albeit sometimes brutal opinions.) If you’re on a similar journey, I’d love to hear from you.  I hope we can learn together.

Thanks for reading, come back anytime!

-JP

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