Revising Soal: Facing the Furnace

Did you listen to them? Arro asked wildly. Did you . . . eat?

Soal hid her face on the pallet. Tears spilled onto the cloth, and she clutched herself, as if that would keep the memories from spilling out, too. A million memories rose at her throat like a word that wished to be spoken. A million memories of blue-lit voices, tender, flickering hands, and a vision of the home they–and she–had been severed from.

And in that instant, something cold came over her. She could not let Arro see these memories. She would not.

I paced the room, my phone pressed to my ear. My hands trembled, but I wasn’t crying–yet. I had just learned that I would have to revise my manuscript in four weeks–four–if I wanted to submit it to Pitch Wars.

Somehow, I had thought that I could take the extra month before mentees were announced to complete revisions. But no, my sheepish friend pointed out. If a mentor was interested, they would request a manuscript. If I was serious about the contest, I needed to have a cohesive manuscript. And I needed it now.

My first thought was to let this year’s deadline slip by. I could continue at my own pace, and submit next year if I chose. But at the thought, something in me balked–and not just balked. It bucked me through the back wall like an angry donkey.

To my surprise, I realized my decision was already made. I would submit. I had to. Not because I had to be selected. I knew that was out of my hands. No, it was deeper than that. I had been planning on this contest for a year now. It had been the one concrete plan amidst the nebulous, endless days of wrestling with writing. I had counted on this as the moment I could look back at those nebulous days and see them coalesce into something meaningful, something solid: a veritable, shareable book.

The next four weeks blurred together. I woke before the children, snatching an hour of writing. I traded babysitting, and worked through nap-time. I stayed up after bedtime, and then woke again early to do it all again.

As a sensitive and introverted soul, the stress of those weeks ate me like acid. I had never allowed myself to push so hard. I found myself looking up stress-management tips, praying to be present as I played with my children, and dedicating five valuable minutes to simple meditation.

With the four weeks passed, I can’t tell if I’m more surprised that I have completed my revisions–or that I am still alive. I did not know that I could face such a furnace of stress, and, instead of incinerating, forge essential tools for my peace as a mother, as a writer, and as myself. I have learned my boundaries, but also my strength.

And so, my dear Soal, tomorrow, we will hit “Submit.” It has been ironic to go through my own furnace as I have watched you struggle through yours. Writing is about finding ourselves in ways we never could have expected, over and over again.

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