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Just the Edge of the Map

Over the past several months I have been continuously editing and revising my civil war novel. Yes, the same one I wrote in 52 days from beginning to end in the spring of 2008.

Writing a novel of any sort is no small task but a task I do recommend to almost every one I meet who is interested in writing. Why? Because it is an amazing learning experience to say the least. Writing this novel has been both a pleasure and a chore but there is no way to measure how much I have learned about myself not to mention the craft of writing itself.

Last month, I joyously submitted my work thus far to an amazing professional editor and after he read my novel twice through we had an almost 4 hour editorial review. It was fantastic. Much of what he had to say confirmed my creative instincts that I am on the right path. As a novice writer, this review alone could be chalked up to a huge success. We discussed every aspect of the story, from my characters, to plot structure, themes and our combined ideas for revision. The positive chemistry of our thoughts on how to make this story the very best it can be completely exceeded my expectations.

Now a month later my mind is all over the place and some days it is a struggle to get myself into my desk chair. Don’t get me wrong the ideas are coming, I have written tons of notes and I have spent a lot of time under my “thinking tree” day dreaming myself back into different aspects of my story and trying not to get anxious when I am doing more thinking than writing. Like everything else in life it is all in one’s approach to the task that you find success or failure. Some people might imagine that when you find an editor the job of writing the book is mostly done and you are on the down hill slide just around the corner to publication. Yes and no. What I am discovering is revision and editing are just the edge of the map and the most important time of all for me to hold fast to my dream.

Sitting for hours and hours on end creating an alternate universe of fiction in what sometimes feels like solitary confinement with just my laptop, IPod, thoughts and of course my faith has been both an amazing privilege and a frightening prospect. I never imagined this is where my life would lead me. All of you who know me personally can attest to the fact I am a true people person and I’m sure you could easily imagine that sometimes the hardest part of writing for me is taking my self out of the daily grind, away from phone calls, emails and everything social. It is quite difficult sometimes, however, an even bigger challenge which may seem cliché is trying to stay positive, motivated and determined that one day this story, this novel, will actually be in print for all to read.

Negativity is indeed the wicked step-sister who whispers in your ear while you scrub the floor dreaming about the Ball. Self doubt inevitably rears its ugly head and you have to take a break and refocus. When the doldrums strike, I feel as though this pursuit is delusional, self centered and arrogant and I should give it all up and use my free time for volunteer work or just cleaning out my closet. Anne Lamont said in her writing memoir Bird by Bird “the other voices are banshees and drunken monkeys.”

Without fail, I soon realize I could never be as happy doing something else as I have found myself to be in writing. When I am writing in the zone, my story flowing effortlessly, it occurs to me that if I could encourage one other person to pursue their own dreams based on the determination of my own, than I am truly doing the work for which God himself gifted me to do.

What I do know is there is no winning without facing a challenger. You can not be the champion if you are unopposed. Therefore we all must face the “I cant’s” and “You never will’s…” and remember to to fortify our dreams with loving, supportive friends and family that will only multiply our positive energy whenever we share our progress or triumphs.

(My fortifications? You all know who you are, you received an email that brought you here to read this blog and I thank God for each and every one of you every day.)

A dear friend of mine always reminds me when I lose sight of things that light cannot exist without dark. Halting the procrastination, I sit back down in my desk chair and I am again at a positive jumping off point. “Butt in chair” re-motivates me and I begin to notice that the time between lost and found is getting shorter as I continue to practice following my heart rather than my head.

It sounds a bit corny I know but our heart is where the deep identity of our soul resides in my own humble opinion. I have come to believe that our heart and soul are forever fighting against our ego mind to reveal to us who we are and what is possible despite the chaos and negativity coursing through the backdrops of our lives. Our egos can bring forward the most pounding criticisms of our past mistakes. Regrets and self-loathing that will suffocate us if we allow the dark hum too much time on the stage. For me, every muddied dark point and every sparkling shining moment of our lives make up all that we are during each and every moment of every day (whether we are consciously aware of it or not).

I believe there can be a balance and I think that is what we were sent here to practice. I find it sometimes when I am writing and it feels like perfection. Other people find it in a spread sheet or behind the wheel of a truck. Not unlike a painting, a masterpiece in the works; we are slowly coming together with each brushstroke. Light colors, dark colors, a tapestry of all that we have been and will be. The kicker is that we DO get to choose the brushes, the canvas and of course all the colors. We do not have to be victims of an assembly line. It is entirely up to us what essence of ourselves we want to spotlight or hold up to scrutiny.

My heart led me to start writing a few years ago and I walked through a doorway into more than I thought was possible in my life. Along the way I have discovered enormous blessings in self discovery, love and friendship all because I was willing to step outside of my comfort zone.

Now I just have to stay the course. I still have so much work to do and I could easily focus on my short comings and lost time but for today, at this moment, I choose not to and I hope that will be enough to silence the “banshees and drunken monkeys”.

J. C. Beichner