Clinging to the Watershed
For the last few months, I have been making forward progress toward getting my manuscript ready for submission. Every day I have taken a step, even if it is a small one, toward my end goal of becoming published. This forward motion came to a grinding halt two weeks ago and I have been unable to move ever since!
My beta readers had given me their feedback; final edits were made; my novel had graduated from needing a major overhaul in sections to just needing some final polishing – a word here, a sentence there. I had researched publishers and editors and narrowed it down to the initial short list that I would be working through in the coming months. All I had to do was write a query letter with a book synopsis and it would be on its way through cyberspace to meet its first denial or acceptance.
And that is where my mind put on the brakes. I have not been able to write the first sentence of my query letter. I have thought about it, sure, but no words have been typed. I have found many other things to occupy my time, none of which are related to my writing. My husband told me that if i could write the book, I could write a letter about the book, but my words wouldn’t come.
I have been at a total loss as to why this has happened until I heard a song from a CD I used to listen to frequently. I haven’t played it in a long time, but the words really struck me. The song is called, “Watershed,” by the Indigo Girls. There is a line in the chorus that says, “Up on the watershed, standing at the fork in the road, You can stand there and agonize till your agony’s your heaviest load.”
I heard that and thought, yes, that is exactly what I am doing. I am standing on a watershed of my own making, agonizing over the next step and what it may mean.
All of us have watershed moments in our lives. They are the turning points that mark a change in course. Wikipedia says it is a moment in time when everything changes. A point in time when nothing after will ever be the same as before. When we get married, decide to have a child, or not to have a child, decide to change careers, decide to follow our dreams. There are many, many watershed moments in a lifetime.
And then there are moments that we put so much weight on that you would think they are watershed moments, but they are not. Not really. They are moments when our fears get in the way of our path. In our anticipation, we make these moments so big in our minds that we can’t even breathe when they get close.
I had a dream the other night. In it I was standing on one said of a one way mirror, looking in on a conference room. In it, about thirty publishers and agents were seated around a huge table and in the center of that table was a stack of copies of my manuscript. Though no one had actually picked up or looked through my manuscript, they were all plotting how to kill my dream. They were laughing and saying things like, “we’ll tell her the plot is tired, the characters too flat.” Others were going for the juggler saying things like, “we should just tell her it sucks and she should give it up. who does she think she is anyway?” Standing outside that room, I felt crushed at their words. But then I looked back at them and realized they were all cardboard cutouts; they weren’t even real.
Now, I am not a psychologist, but I would like to believe that at some point during that dream I realized that I was making all of them out to be evil and out to get me because I am scared of what they will say or think. I know that to send my manuscript out into the great big world, I am letting go of some of the control I have had over it all these years. This is a very terrifying concept. But I also realize that no matter what the agents and publishers say, their words will only carry the weight that I assign to them.
Sending my manuscript to an agent or publisher is a big, scary thing, but I no longer think it is the watershed moment that I have made it into in my mind. After a lot of lost sleep and running away from the task at hand, I have come to realize that this moment will not change everything that comes after. If my manuscript is rejected ten, twenty or a thousand times, it will not change the fact that I am a writer. It also won’t be the final determination as to whether or not I will get published. I can always look into self-publishing as many other authors have successfully managed to do. My real watershed moment was when I decided that yes, I am a writer and going forward I am not going to hide it any longer.