Recovery is Not a Race, It's a Journey

  • Rose, the pro editor, and I met on Saturday when she gave me the 229-page manuscript slashed with line edits. She told me I could approach the revisions in a three-step process. Rose and the other two editors were brutally honest in their critique. Hey, that's what I paid them for!


    Coming back with a memoir that needs a "gut renovation" disheartened me, even though one of the editors said the book will have a large readership. As I reflected on the work I need to do now, I felt how apropros of recovery: to navigate shifting tides. And so my December 1st goal of querying 15 literary agents has been put on hold, because the manuscript is simply not in the shape it needs to be for an agent to sell it to a publisher.

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    As I said in a previous blog entry, "Life will tell you," and so I take my own advice. What seemed clear and doable the last time I posted "Goal Setting for Beginners" has turned out to be not quite S.M.A.R.T. in light of the new information.


    That's how it is in recovery as in life: we need to be open to changes that are in our best interest. Developing a thick skin as a writer mirrors for me the strong ego we all need when faced with stigma and rejection.


    Such is the lot of life: we can be strong and vulnerable, emotional and resilient. The mantra of not giving up hope applies here as well. It may take longer to get to publication, and so be it. My friend M. told me, "It's not a race."


    How truly that describes recovery as well as any kind of self-improvement: it's not a race. Back in the early 1990s, I rushed through things, went on a drug holiday, and almost took a permanent detour. I'll give you this advice: "slow and steady" trumps being impatient with yourself.


    My S.M.A.R.T. goal, revised, based on the new information I didn't have two weeks ago, now reads as follows:

    1. Re-read the edited manuscript tonight.
    2. Spend the weekend making "the cuts."
    3. Next week finish the cuts, and print up the new manuscript.
    4. Separate the 229 pages into four sections of 50 pages each
    5. By the end of October, revise the first 50 pages.
    6. In November, edit the next 50 pages, and so on until the end of January.

    That gives me a tentative date of February when I can query literary agents again. I still hold out the goal of publishing the book by the time I'm 44. And I believe, as I always have, that goal-seeking behavior is a trait that enables us to do well in recovery.





    Last night I e-mailed the editor to thank her, and this morning she responded, saying I shouldn't be discouraged and that "Your first draft was indeed impressive." And so I continue. In life as in literature, I remember that it takes time and effort and patience to achieve a goal. Because I believe in my memoir, I'm not going to quit until it's in the best possible form for publication.


    Today on the train going into the City, it was calming to edit the first 50 pages. I attended a homebuyers' workshop for first-time homeowners, and even there, the woman who taught the class told us, "It could take some people 20 years to save for a down payment."


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    So at the end of September, I'll check in here with how I'm doing on my writing goals, and possibly add one new objective to the mix: saving money to move out of this apartment in January 2009.


    As Tom Petty, the rock-n-roll singer croons, "The waiting is the hardest part/You take it on faith, you take it to the heart." Faith seems like a long shot for me now, and so I'm not waiting on a miracle, I'm relying on my own trust that I have what I need to get things done. Again, things aren't going quickly, so perhaps that's the way the universe has of getting me to slow down.


    Writing the memoir was like therapy. I met every Thursday night for five years with other writers in a workshop that was like literary boot camp. If you couldn't survive, you left. Bringing my life to the page in such searing detail required a level of honesty that threatened to unhinge me. Anyone out there who wants to write a psych memoir I suggest have on hand at least three people you can go to for support.


    With all these feelings that cropped up, why did I continue? Quite simply, I believe in my vision: that people can recover. This belief is in my bones, it's the driving force in nearly all I do.


    As we head into the fall in just five weeks, know that I'm rooting for you in whatever goals you set for yourself. Autumn is the perfect time to "take stock" of where you've been and chart where you're going. Feel free to post comments and suggestions, including tips and techniques of your own.


    Next Tuesday I'll be posting an interview with Pamela Spiro Wagner, whose blog was voted one of the Best of 2007 by She truly is an inspiration to me, and if you need an extra boost, I'm sure what she has to say will kindle your spirits.

Published On: August 29, 2007