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Losing Sight of the Shore

This was a big week. This week, I sent the final final draft of my manuscript to the publisher. I will never be able to edit it again. The next time I see The Traitor’s Wife, the project that has pretty much consumed my waking and sleeping hours these past two years, it will be a bound and bona fide book. It will be available to readers, critics, reviewers, and, hopefully, supporters. A real book, I thought, as I looked at the marked-up, dog-eared pile of pages my publisher awaited, its heavy presence feeling so solid and sturdy and real. A dream realized. And yet, it still felt like something I wanted desperately to protect.

Losing Sight of the ShoreClutching the thick stack at the post office – hesitating as the clerk asked me “Was I ready?” – I wavered. Was I ready? I felt a lot of things, a veritable cocktail of myriad and mixed emotions. Relief. Hesitation. Euphoria. Apprehension. Gratitude. Panic. But was “readiness” one of them?

No, I didn’t feel ready. I wanted to keep the pages to myself. To run home and rip open the package and cram in one last round of re-reads.

And yet, I knew that I could not do that. I was ready. Ready for what, I wasn’t quite sure,  but I knew that it was time to take the next step. I had put in the work. I had researched, and read, and written, and rewritten, and stressed, and cried, and edited and then edited some more. Oh, how I had come to dread the editing. I think I must have combed through this text over a hundred times, to the point where I have entire passages memorized. I know this book so well that I’m not even sure the past few rounds of editing have been beneficial. But in spite of all of this, I did not want to let it out of my hands. The thought of sharing it with the world simultaneously thrilled and yet terrified me.

I was mentioning my mixed emotions to my agent, expressing my reluctance to let it go, to release the text from my hands and send it out to wherever it goes next.  I told my agent that I didn’t feel like I was done, even though I most certainly did not have yet another round of tedious edits in me.

My agent understood, wisely telling me: “Of course you don’t feel done. Writing is never done.”

This does not sit well with my perfectionist self. The person who loves things to be neat, and tidy, and done. The person who wrote papers two weeks early in college because I just like to get my work done. I suspect that I will read the bound, finished product in four months and find dozens of changes I should have made. It will never be perfect. But that’s OK. That’s life.

While struggling with this, I came across a quotation that seemed really really timely. The quotation goes like this: “One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore.”

You must consent to lose sight of the shore. That’s a scary thought – especially for someone whose sense of direction is as terrible as mine is. If I were to take this literally, I’d probably lose sight of the shore hoping to find Spain and would end up in Australia.

But I like this quote. I like it because it is talking about dreams, and the fear and faith involved in their pursuit.  A dream has to scare you a little bit, otherwise it wouldn’t be a dream, right? It would be a goal. You chase your dreams – those distant, unseen shores – because you have faith. In yourself. In your hard work. You have faith that whatever it is you are hoping to find – wherever it is that you are hoping to arrive – is really is there, awaiting you. You might not see it. You might not even know what “it” looks like. But you take the step out of your own comfort, just the same.

I took a deep breath and dropped my oversized package into the mail. I released control and turned this professional corner toward the next phase of this uncharted and fantastically exciting process. Everything about this process is new to me. And a lot of it is scary. But it is also wonderful. And I believe that, in losing sight of the shore, I am heading some place thrilling and stimulating and enriching. And so, in the words of one of my favorite English professors: onward!

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Allison Pataki
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