Monday, May 20, 2013
One of my favorite feel good books (you know, from that section in the book store* nobody wants to be seen in) is Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn. In it, he recounts the line from the movie of Nikos Kazantzaki's novel Zorba the Greek:
Zorba, have you ever been married?
to which Zorba replies...
...Of course I've been married. Wife, house, kids, everything...the full catastrophe.
So, maybe if I heard my husband refer to our life together as a catastrophe I might get offended, but actually the term 'full catastrophe' here and in John Kabat-Zinn's book is meant to express the richness of life and all its many faces —good, bad and the gray stuff in between. It speaks to the joys and sorrows, our personal trials and triumphs.
If that isn't a perfect metaphor for the writing journey, I'm not sure what is!
My editorial letter came at what was probably one of the worst times in my life. Or better put, if I had laid out a timeline of my life in front of me, I certainly wouldn't have consciously chosen to have my editorial letter arrive when it did. I was literally one foot out the door to an extended weekend trip to Florida when I checked my email. Part of me wanted to ignore it...the wiser part of me thought, well, read it through and do an awful lot of thinking on your road trip! (as if not opening it was an option when I saw my editor's name in my inbox!) I read through it quickly (not too bad!), got back to my editor and told her I'd begin working when I returned home the following Wednesday. Then I took off for the eight-hour road trip to the Sunshine State.
The next morning, in NJ, my father was put on life support.
He passed away later that same evening.
Oddly enough, in the jumble of figuring out logistics, keeping my own grief at bay so I could deal with my children's grief and questions, and booking a flight to NJ, my edits were still in the maelstrom of my mind. I contacted both my agent and editor, who were understanding beyond words, and went about making arrangements to get home.
The death of a family member is certainly one of those times when your writing doesn't take priority. There are too many business-like arrangements to make and feelings to work out and in the quietest moments, all I could do was sleep or eat or watch something mindless and fun on TV, so as not to visit the darker places in my mind.
When I finally returned home to North Carolina the following week, I wasn't sure if I was really up to the task of editing my novel. It all seemed so silly and trivial in the face of my father's death. But what choice did I have? This publishing opportunity was what I'd been working so damn hard for, for so long...and my agent and editor were working damn hard for it as well. I couldn't wallow in the injustice of the shitty timing. I had a deadline.
I wrote, or to be exact, I revised. Having my book to dive into, being able to spend time with characters who I loved, helped me get through a rough time. It gave me something to focus on. In between all of that, there was the stuff of every day life to contend with as well. School, meals, laundry, college planning, dance classes, doctor visits, professional photos...the full catastrophe.
My second set of edits arrived the day before my daughter's birthday.
My copy edits arrived on my wedding anniversary.
Yep, at some point, I had to laugh and...dance Zorba-like in the gale of the full catastrophe.**
Because the truth is —there will never be the perfect time to write, or revise, or edit. There will always be school, meals, laundry (there's always freakin' laundry), weddings, funerals, big stuff, small stuff, Orphan Black marathons, bills to pay, the Yankees getting off to a slow start and rain on vacation. And there will be writing, and whether you can give it chunks of time or little sips of time here and there...it's there. Always.
So what are you waiting for?
**page 5, FULL CATASTROPHE LIVING: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D.