Your furrowed brow is streaked with sweat. Your heart is racing even though you’re sitting still. Your finger hovers over the button, yet never finds the right moment to strike. Your face is inches from the screen, and you’ve become blinded by monitor light as you wonder: could do it? Better yet, should you do it?
Sound familiar? This moment is one that all authors face. Whether at the beginning of their careers, before they manage to make something noteworthy, or in the middle when each new book seems like climbing Everest after reaching the top of the first. Or in the twilight years, when the only real competition are the books already finished.
This moment is torture; the unbridled anguish of finality. Once you click submit, once you hit send, once you click print and put in the mail, there is no going back. No more edits. No more tweaks. No more 7 AM shower ideas you hammer on all day until you finally get a chance to add or subtract or morph one last thing.
It’s all over. All your hopes and dreams and fears and doubts will be realized, because they are no longer hopes and dreams and fear and doubts. You’ve hit send. You’ve mailed the manuscript. You’ve submitted the important blog post. All the ‘could’ and ‘should’ will become ‘did’, and even worse, ‘didn’t’.
We spend so much time breathing life into these worlds that are not our own that letting them go is painful. We shepherd the slow accumulation of words until something new is born. Our worlds are full of living beings, with new flora and fauna, with tales and legends and wars and pain so much different from our own yet still they are familiar. We’ve become attached to their history. Our characters have grown old before our eyes, and we have diligently chronicled their exploits. Then, our chronicle ends. The sand runs out of the hourglass, and we must blot the splotches of ink from our record book and tidy up the passages as best we can so that it may be read by another.
It takes strength to cut out this adventure over that one, to choose one bit of world-building over another while letting cold logic guide our hands. Determination is required to pound endlessly at the words in front of us, until every blemish is banished by careful and deliberate strokes of the hammer. Courage, more than we could ever have known was within us, is required to click submit. We know that once it leaves, every nook and cranny will be inspected, reviewed, and questioned without mercy or remorse. Why this choice instead of that one? Why did this idea gain prominence over another? Why wasn’t Character Y the main character all along?
I cannot promise that the perspiring brow and ghoulish terror will ever leave that final moment. I can promise this; The only way to know which of our worst fears or greatest hopes is true is by clicking that button.
Rejection is painful, but its sting is only temporary.
Regret is forever.
The Unsheathed Quill