You’re exhausted. It’s been a long day and all you want to do is check out in front of the tube. But there’s this project you’re working on; there’s progress you’re trying to make. Your eyes keep shifting to the clock and midnight approaches faster and faster still. Your heart begins to race because the final hours in your day are tumbling down like sand in the grip of gravity. You sigh deeply, making sure your significant other knows you’re about to do something important; something sacrificial. Family Guy drowns it out and he doesn’t turn to offer the quizzical, sympathetic gaze you’re so desperate for in all your pathetic martyrdom. But still, you drag your feet to another room–a quiet place of repose, meditation (fits of rage, paper crumpling, gritting of teeth and barely contained temper tantrums). You console yourself: “I’m almost at the end. Only a few more paragraphs and I’ll be done.” You start writing, at first very slowly then faster…and faster still. Only one more paragraph.
Something isn’t right. That weighted, ugly feeling in the pit of your stomach. It doesn’t work. The ending doesn’t work. The ending doesn’t work because there’s a major problem. There’s a massive clot in a major artery running through your story and it’s going to take a serious, involved procedure to save it. You’ll have to rend bone apart, stem the blood and make the incision before it’s too late. If you don’t do it fast enough, your faith will begin to wane. You’ll wonder if the story CAN be saved, you’ll doubt yourself and then…flatline.
You have to go all the way back to the beginning, to the origin of the problem, and work from there. It’s going to be a long, hard night. Your hands shake as you work. Your chest hurts from the abuse your heart is inflicting on your rib cage. It’s such a fragile entity. One small, misguided stroke and the whole thing could fall apart.
Somehow, you do it. Somehow, through the gunk and flesh and bone you find the rotten core, you cut away and it wakes up again. Stronger, better. Better than you thought it could be. The torment and terror–they make you revel with Bambi-eyed wonder in the realization that you could do such a thing. No, the fight isn’t over yet–you only got rid of the major problem. But the hard part is over and you and your patient are ready to take on the details. Tomorrow.
You open the door. It’s 11 p.m. You strut to the couch, “Eye of the Tiger,” playing at full volume in your head (it goes up to 11). Your significant other is by now reclined on the couch, his feet stretched out onto the one and a half cushions assigned to you. Crossing your arms, smiling like a lunatic proudly pointing at a fresh puddle of pee on the floor, you wait for him to ask you how things went. He snores.