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The Morning After

Photo by Antonio Guillem

Whether you’ve been working on your WIP for one year or ten, there comes a day when you know it’s ready to submit. Whether it’s fifty pages and an outline or the full manuscript, today’s the day. You’ve done your work. It’s time to let go.

You go over your cover letter again and again, reviewing each sentence, obsessing and rewriting until you can’t put it off any longer. You take a deep breath. You hit send.

After the initial feeling of euphoria fades, you glance up at the wall, at the framed sign you pinned there months ago with some of the best writing advice you’ve received: Stay in the chair. You stand up, noticing the stiffness in your legs, the lower back ache you’ve been ignoring for the last few months. Step by step, you slowly move away from your writing nook, forcing yourself not to look back.

And then you celebrate the best way you know how. Maybe with a glass of champagne or a nice lunch at that restaurant you’ve been longing to try. A stroll through the park, a massage, perhaps a visit with an old friend, one who’ll forgive your long absence.

For the first time in months, you sleep through the night: no characters whispering in your ears, no jolting awake with that great idea that just can’t wait.

And then, inevitably, it arrives: The Morning After.

You wake up early and happily realize that you have nothing on your agenda, nothing but the life you guiltily put aside for far too long. It’s time to get back to it. You climb out of bed with a bit more vigor than you’ve had in these final days of rewriting. You stand there wondering what to do first.

You’ve faced The Morning After at least once before. You know enough to avoid the piles of laundry that have collected on the bedroom floor, the sweats or yoga pants or pajamas you’ve been living in for the last few weeks. You’ve learned to avoid mirrors.

At this point, if you’re smart, you’ve already considered that short vacation, ignoring housework, bills, yard-work, the half-painted den. You can’t wait to reward your hard work with a change of venue, but it doesn’t work out that way. Since you couldn’t gauge exactly when you’d be finished, and your preferred travel companions have real world schedules, they can’t just drop everything the day you’re finally ready. Even your writer friends, the ones who would gladly celebrate with you, are busy wrestling with their own WIPs. The vacation will have to wait.

With nothing pressing, and against your better judgement, you wander into your writing nook, sit down at the computer, and check your emails. Maybe someone is already reading. Maybe your manuscript was so compelling that the minute they received it, they put everything aside and stayed up all night, unable to stop turning pages until they finished that final brilliant chapter.

Instead, there’s not even an acknowledgement of receipt. You realize you should have asked for one. You check the clock. It’s still early. Even so, you start to obsess: What if they didn’t get it? What if they couldn’t open the file?  You decide you should send a follow up email. You really must.

Since you’ve been through The Morning After before, you take a deep breath, recognizing the symptoms of impending disease. The accompanying dizziness. The slight headache… The shouldas have begun to set in.

The word should echoes inside your head. A wave of nausea washes over you. This is not your first case. You’ve had the shouldas before. Today, they go something like this:

You shoulda set the manuscript on a more remote island.

You never shoulda made the protagonist a neuroscientist as well as a Lyric Soprano opera singer and MMA champion. It’s just too much.

You shoulda shared that revised first chapter with your writing group.

Or, you never shoulda shared that revised first chapter with your writing group. You feel as though you’ve been hit by a truck. You ache all over.

You push yourself away from your desk. You lie down for a while. You drink a lot of water.

As morning gives way to afternoon, you start to feel a little better. You wander around the house for a while. Weather permitting, you take a long walk then book a yoga class you’ve been meaning to attend. You actually go.

Energized, you take in a movie. Afterwards, you stop by Home Depot and try to match the paint to finish that den you started about the same time you had the initial idea for your manuscript. You’re told that shade was discontinued two years ago.

You binge watch Peaky Blinders, falling asleep on the couch to the strains of Red Right Hand, the lingering dream image of Small Heath giving way to a new image, one that will somehow find its way into your next WIP.

You awaken to the i-Phone ping of an incoming text, the requested reply to that follow up email you just couldn’t keep from sending: “Manuscript received.”

You sigh, remembering the long process ahead, and knowing that the real wait is just beginning.

Have you ever experienced the morning after? What was it like for you?

About Brunonia Barry [1]

Brunonia Barry [2] is the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of The Lace Reader, The Map of True Places, and The Fifth Petal, chosen #1 of Strand Magazine’s Top 25 Books of 2017. Her work has been translated into more than thirty languages and has been an Amazon Best of the Month and a People Magazine Pick. Barry was the first American author to win the International Women’s Fiction Festival’s Baccante Award and was a past recipient of Ragdale Artists’ Colony’s Strnad Invitational Fellowship as well as the winner of New England Book Festival’s award for Best Fiction. Her reviews and articles on writing have appeared in The London Times, The Washington Post, and The Huffington Post. Brunonia served as chairperson of the Salem Athenaeum’s Writers’ Committee, as Executive Director of the Salem Literary Festival, and as a member of Grub Street’s Development Committee. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts with her husband, Gary Ward, and their dog, Angel.