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"Just be who you are, calm and clear and bright." - Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

A Much-Needed Reality Check

“Don’t take yourself so seriously.”

“Be grateful for everything you have.”

These are classic pieces of good advice, yet how often do we neglect to take them?

One night back in October I sat down to dinner with a friend who was visiting from Ireland. We’d been offline all day, out sightseeing in Boston, and between the cooking and washing-up we took a moment to check our inboxes.

I had an email from my editor. It read, I am still really struggling with our narrator’s character…His is the voice that guides us through the story and yet we don’t understand him.

Shit! I thought. I NEED that d&a* check! Not to mention that I didn’t have the foggiest idea how I’d be able to write myself out of this.

Panic descended, like the barometric pressure and eerie yellow light that portends a thunderstorm. My friend forgave me for wanting to retire early. He went out to watch the World Series at a neighborhood bar, while I was asleep before “half nine.”

Eleven hours later I still didn’t want to get out of bed, and if not for my houseguest I would have stayed there. But I got up, put the kettle on, and opened Twitter to distract myself from the persistent feeling of impending disaster.

Sometimes social media offers you something of real practical value, something you’d have missed if you’d dipped into the feed only a few minutes later. In my case, it was this:

Rosemary Sutcliff tweet
I read the blog post, and was humbled by it. Here is an excerpt of the original piece, which Rosemary Sutcliff wrote in 1981:

Career-wise, I’m one of the lucky ones. My job, as a writer of books, is one of the few in which physical disability presents hardly any problems. I would claim that it presents no problems at all but my kind of book needs research, and research is more difficult for a disabled person.

I am less able to see for myself or dig priceless information out of deeply hidden archives. I have to rely more on other people’s help and on libraries. And even libraries can present problems – like one which shall be nameless – which is very proud of its ramp to its entrance but keeps its entire reference department upstairs, with, of course, no lift…

In all those winter days I’d spent at the National Library of Scotland, it had never once occurred to me that I could access any and all reference materials without special assistance. Now and again I take a moment to feel grateful for a lot of things, but that was one blessing I hadn’t even considered. Not to mention being able to travel on my own, wherever and whenever I choose, fielding comments no more insensitive than “Seeing as you’re Italian and from New Jersey, is your grandfather the head of the mob?”

At times life can present us with real difficulties, but an unanticipated novel revision and cash flow issues (when one has no children, mortgage, or credit card debt) do not qualify.



* “Delivery and acceptance”—the portion of your advance that comes once your editor is 100% satisfied with the manuscript.

3 Comments to A Much-Needed Reality Check

  1. February 10, 2015 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    Here’s hoping you’ve received that D&A check by now.

  2. Kelly's Gravatar Kelly
    February 11, 2015 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    We all need these checks! xoxoxox

  3. Kate's Gravatar Kate
    February 12, 2015 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

    I often find it helps to ask yourself will this matter a year from now and what is the worst result that could happen from what I am dreading/upset about. Usually the answer is no and not much.

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Hi! I'm Camille. I only write stories that could never ever happen in real life, though I do believe in real-life magic. If we were in the same room I'd fix you a cup of tea, but for now we'll have to settle for a virtual connection. I'm really glad you're here.