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She Inhaled

This photo was taken of me in Cuba last February. When in Cuba, do as the Cubans, right? I’m showing it today because this morning I sent off my teen novel on aids survival. My publisher called, I told her that every day I woke thinking, “This is the day!” And then there were always more scenes, more edits, more corrections, more tweaking to do.

She said, “Why don’t you send it to me by noon.”

I said, “Tomorrow?”

She said, “Today.”

So I turned off the phone, ran upstairs and spent the next 90 minutes doing all the writing I thought I still had to do. Then I sent it off. Still ahead: her corrections, corrections for cultural accuracy from South Africa, the translation into Dutch, editing, an info section on aids survival, but hey! Right here, right now, I’m finished. After all, when is a piece of art ever finished?

It is enough.

Here are some work rules that helped make me happy and focused. I stole them off a website of a friend who is a life coach and spiritual director. His name is Bruce Stanley and you can find him at 1. Finish the job you are doing in one go. (Compartmentalize large jobs into definable chunks.) 2. Give the task your full attention. Don’t switch attention to other things. 3. Keep your attention present and focused. 4. Start and stop the task with a quick stillness exercise.

What else helped me to finish? This quote: “It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind. We can only do it for moments at first. . . . It is hard; but the sort of compromise we are hankering after is harder—in fact, it is impossible. . . .”—C.S. Lewis

So celebrate with me! Hand out the cigars! I kept the wild animals at bay.

Now all I have to do is remember how to exhale.

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