Closing the Distance

Posted on 11 January 2014

“Lying awake at night or sitting in my study, I know that after I have labored and polished and reworked and questioned and discarded and redone and rethought and repolished long enough, there will come that sweet, eventual, certain yes.”

–Excerpt from “The Finishing Touch” by Cary Tennis, published the in January 2014 issue of The Sun

Last year at this time, I was taking a break from my novel-in-progress after sprinting to a word count goal during the first draft. I finished the full first draft in May, then took some time off to let the novel rest and to give myself some distance. Ultimately, I gave myself a lot more distance than I planned.

Throughout last semester, as I drove between Bowling Green and Cleveland, I’d pack up the manuscript with the good intentions of finally diving in and making revision notes. But time and time again, I left the manuscript unopened. Instead of reading my novel, I was immersed in my first semester of the graduate program and all that entailed: learning how to teach, reading Mid-American Review submissions, grading scores of student essays, crafting feedback for my cohort’s stories, writing my own stories, and slowly developing an idea for what will become my thesis. Somehow, the novel that I wrote last year and that I still feel so strongly about didn’t become a factor.

Until now. Over winter break, I finally read the entire manuscript. What I see on those typewritten pages is a lot of promise, a lot of good stuff, and yes, a whole hell of a lot of work ahead of me.

Considering that I’ve only just begun considering revisions, posting that quote from Cary Tennis’s essay above seems wildly optimistic. But no matter. Without the occasional burst of optimism, how could writers go on? I have to remind myself that not only did this manuscript win me a full scholarship to Tin House and a finalist designation for the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund grant, but its strengths represent how far I’ve come as a writer. Its weaknesses, meanwhile, show how far I still have to go; that I believe I can get there is good enough for now.

What are you distancing yourself from?

Photo: timsnell

2 responses to Closing the Distance

  • Teri says:

    Thanks for the link to The Sun’s article, Laura.

    The more time goes by, the more I realize why I couldn’t pound out my memoir in 2 years when I was barely 40. I needed the next years to find the story I wanted to tell, the story I am able to tell. I needed to give myself more distance from the scenes in order to see them (all together) more clearly.

    Good luck in your next semester, and with the new m.s.

  • Catherine says:

    It sounds as though you are on the right path – it’s just very busy! I also have a novel draft that I’ve distanced myself from. Perhaps too much. I’ve let myself stray into short story land and don’t seem to want to find a pathway out. I know it’s hopeless trying to market and sell stories, but it’s where I think I’m strongest. But then, who knows?
    There is always so much work to be down!

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