Thursday, October 12, 2017

Finishing the book: Just what the doctor ordered

It’s good to return to Type M after several missed posts. The past six weeks have offered a wild ride.

Until Aug. 24, the summer of 2017 was the best of my life. Academic work led me to spend weeks in Tampa (gorgeous city), Bozeman, Montana (breathtaking), and had five weeks in Maine with all three girls at home (with one daughter in college, those summers are dwindling, I know). Then I caught “a stomach bug” the week before school began. After a few days in bed –– and two trips to doctors’ offices –– I went to the E.R. Aug. 24, expecting to leave with a prescription.

I walked out 17 days later –– and 40 pounds lighter (not a diet plan I recommend). What was “prescribed” that night in the E.R. was emergency surgery to correct a stomach ailment, one I never knew I had. When they wheeled me into the O.R., one of my last thoughts was, I’m only fifty pages from finishing my damned book. When I woke up and was given painkillers, I knew the book wasn’t getting finished for a while.

When I came home, school at Northfield Mount Hermon was in full swing. (I told my wife I feel like Rip Van Winkle –– I left the day before school started, now I return and a quarter has passed.) I live at the school. So “recovery” amounted to sitting with my dog all day “resting.” I napped and looked out the window. Then I felt strong enough to write. I couldn’t teach yet, but I could sit with my laptop and re-read the novel I’d begun 14 months earlier. I liked what I read, made numerous changes, and kept on going, banging out the final 45 pages in a week. Then I asked my four advanced readers to start from the beginning, received their excellent feedback (as always), made final changes, and sent the manuscript to my agent.

We are a beach family, and my 8-year-old offers the best perspective: “Next summer will be awesome! When people ask what happened [the scar on my stomach] we can tell them Shark Bite!” But there’s another perspective anyone who reads Type M will understand. It has more to do with what my visiting nurse keeps saying, “Your body won’t heal if you’re in pain or under stress.” My recovery is going swimmingly (knock on wood), and I think that has a lot to do with finishing the book and liking it. No longer is it hanging over me. No longer is my agent waiting for it. No longer am I, a writer who has an outline but rarely follows it, waiting to learn how or if the book will end.

I feel great. I’m walking an hour a day and resume my day job Oct. 10, and I credit finishing the book with offering me healing power.

5 comments:

Rick Blechta said...

WELCOME BACK, JOHN!!! We've all missed you.

Sybil Johnson said...

Welcome back!

Marianne Wheelaghan said...

Lovely to meet you, John!

The thing about writing, which we all know, is that it needs time. It sounds like you had a lot of that on your hands. Well done for finishing that novel and enjoy your stress free days – until you start your next writing project, that is ;)

Mario Acevedo said...

Great to see you again.

Aline Templeton said...

So glad to see you back John. What a horrible experience - but don't get well too fast!!! Teaching is an exhausting business and maybe you can start the next book!