At 5:02 this afternoon, I finished the last few sentences of the first entire draft of The Fletcher Farm Body. Many chapters don't have titles, and there's a long list of items I want to address in the next draft stuck into the beginning of Chapter One. But there is some kind of entire story completed, and now I can take a few weeks off to let it all rest while I work on other small projects.
The Fletcher Farm Body began on January 1, 2009 as the 365 Story Project. If you read that post, you'll see that I actually began working on it in 2008. I believe I was keeping a handwritten journal type of thing with the first drafts of the stories-a-day I originally saw this thing being. I actually began talking about that project back in December, 2005. But let's say that I've only been working on it for real since January 1, 2009.
That's a little over two and a half years.
In those two and a half years, I finished another book (somewhere, somehow) and spent a great deal of time submitting it to publishers and agents. I made six professional appearances (yes, I know, that's pathetic for two and a half years) that involved various amounts of preparation, and I attended seven literary events of one kind or another. I wrote and published one essay. I updated the website (though not recently), continued my flash nonfiction here at the blog, and joined Facebook.
I was also in a hospital emergency room at least three times with one family member and once with another. I made untold numbers of holiday meals and transported them to one family member's home. I had two family members in different nursing homes the same year, though not at the same time. The same two family members were hospitalized the same year, but not the same time. One family member had a knee injury with a two month wait for surgery, follow-up visits to the surgeon, trips to a podiatrist, and then cataract surgery twice. I planned both a funeral luncheon and a rehearsal dinner and attended same. We had two weddings. We have a relative in another part of the country dealing with work disabities who requires a lot of support. Since the fall of 2009, I've only been working three days a week, if that, because of the older family members who need support.
While I believe very strongly that in this life you'd best put one foot in front of the other and just do what you have to do, I can't say that I'm particularly good at it. I am easily distracted. It doesn't take a lot to overwhelm me. I hope I keep the griping to a minimum, but there's often a low-level hum in the back of my head that is my internal whimper. I do not define grace under pressure. I am ashamed that I can't cope better than I do when I know that there are people, like my friend Tom, who have sick, elderly family members living with them.
My biggest asset in life is perseverance. The fact that I slogged through to the end of this manuscript, no matter what its quality, is all about perseverance. Here is an analogy: I have been a martial arts student for nine years. In that time, a large percentage of the adult students I've encountered were younger, stronger, faster, and more flexible than I am. But here's the thing...they left. I stayed. And that's why I'm a third dan black belt, and they're not. I gritted my teeth and stuck with it.
That's pretty much how I wrote this manuscript. I gritted my teeth.
So finishing this freaking thing has great significance for me. On the other hand, though, it has no significance at all because I don't have a publisher lined up. I don't even have an editor I've been working with recently who knows I've been writing this thing and is interested in looking at it. I have nothing but the incredible relief I feel at having reached a milestone.
Hey, but that's good. For the next couple of weeks, I'm going to be happy.