I’m having a hard time wrapping up my final edits on my horror novel, M.B. Finishing a book, I’m finding, is like letting go of a friend. Anne is the name of my protagonist and she’s modeled a bit after me (but not entirely). We’re both intelligent women, both love old houses and each of us have our quirks. And our stubbornness.
I’ve been visiting Anne at her house, dragging my feet around her hallways while she pecks away at her laptop busily. Anne works as a freelance programmer inbetween renovating her house in her semi-retirement. I tend to mope and throw myself across her couch, counters, floors and rugs. I hide behind her long curtains and look out onto her front yard and the tree I placed at the edge, just outside the front row of bushes. Anne ignores my antics politely and reminds me to wipe up my smudge marks I leave on her windows.
Anne’s blunt and direct, like me, but slightly more patient. One of our latest conversations went a bit like this…
“You’ve worked so hard on telling my story. I know you can finish polishing me up,” Anne encourages, squinting at me over her laptop screen. “Your goal is getting the novel back to your editor by the end of August, right? That’s not too many days left.”
“I got the cover art done,” I repeat for the tenth time and hold up the picture again on my cell phone. “Isn’t it great? I think it fits the tone of the story really well. I wonder if I could make it into a poster…”
I smile at my phone and pet the screen like it’s a Persian cat. Anne clears her throat to break my reverie and levels her gaze at me.
“Look. It comes down to this: I know you’re going to finish writing me. But the question is how soon? Are you going to just do it or will you keep writing blog entries about how you’re avoiding your writing?”
I cough and look around uncomfortably, rubbing at my neck like a mosquito’s bit me. She’s nailed me.
Anne leans forward and pats my hand. Her hands are soft from her lotions she’s diligent with using. Mine are rough and cut up from yardwork. Anne always thinks to wear gardening gloves. I never do.
“Come on, kid. I got dinner in the oven. Stick around for a bit before you get back to your writing. You’re just over thinking it. It’s going to be fine.”
I kick at the floor, acting like a child. I teeter on the chair, balancing on the two back legs while I consider. I notice I’m setting Anne’s teeth on edge and I remember to cut it out.
“Alright,” I finally relent. “I think I’m working it up in my mind, aren’t I? I’m afraid the pacing is off, I’ll miss a typo or–or–I”ll screw it all up!”
Anne shakes her head and smiles, her hair falling over her glasses. A smile or a smirk is on her face. She’s amused at my youth I realize.
“Finish the race, fight the good fight. You have twenty other story ideas in your head right now,” Anne says, setting out the dinner dishes. “You can come back to me anytime at my house–you know that. But right now, other people want to hear about me, too.”
One typo at a time, one word choice at a time. Thousands of anxieties like thorns to pick through and pass. This is the writer’s journey.
Song: “Iris,” The Goo Goo Dolls