Last night, at nearly 2:30 in the morning, I emailed all the chapters of my manuscript to my editor. Actually, I should say, “we emailed all the chapters.…” The Chef, bless his soul, wanted to be part of this momentous occasion, and so he put his hand on top of mine, over the mouse on the computer, and gently pressed down on the send button with me.
It’s fitting. I just could not have written this book without him.
There’s something really beautiful, and clarifying, about such an enormous project as this one. Many of you have commented, in comments and emails to me, how impressed you are that I made the deadline. I guess in a way, I am too. Heavens, I wrote an entire book in four months. It’s even too long! (My editor is wonderful; there will be tightening galore.) In four months, some people might not have been able to write half the required words. I wrote twice as many.
I’ve been thinking about this Blaise Pascal quote, incessantly:
“I have made this [letter] longer because I did not have the leisure to make it shorter.”
In the midst of the last few days of editing, this one made me laugh. How many times did I tell my writing students, “It’s much better to have too much to work with than too little.” Everything I ever taught them, I have been putting into practice. I stand humbled.
I also stand amazed. Of course I made my deadline. What was I going to do —— miss it? Writing and publishing this book is a dream come true for me. Not only because I have wanted to write a book and see it on the shelves from the time I have first been able to clutch a pen, but also because I have a darned good feeling that at least a few people are going to be helped by reading this book. That kept me going.
The Chef’s father is renowned in his family, for something he said to the Chef’s brother, Pat. When Pat was in the seventh grade, and already a phenomenally talented skiier in Colorado, he lost a big race that he had expected to win. His father consoled him, then counseled him to go train harder. “If you want something bad enough, you have to work for it,” he told his son. The Chef has lived his life by this edict. I have lived mine by it too, especially in these last four months.
Oh, and Pat went onto to compete in the Olympics in Sarajevo, in 1984.
The real beauty of a project like this, however, has been having the Chef by my side through it all. He has been — stunningly — a supportive partner. We are a team. We felt it before these past few months. We know it now. Last night, I made all the final, tiny edits on the computer. For hours, I had to hunch over the laptop and keep plugging at it. Sometimes, I’d think, “Oh, I can catch that comma splice on another edit,” especially as the evening grew later, and my arms and back grew sore. But I didn’t give up. Why?
At that exact moment, as if by magic, the Chef would walk over to me and start massaging my shoulders. (The man uses his hands all day. Oh boy.) He brought me big glasses of water. He made a hearty meat stock in the oven, so that I would have the smell of good food filling the house as I worked. He created an unbelievably good gluten-free lasagna for us, along with garlic bread he toasted from the sorghum loaf I had made that morning. Late in the evening, he chopped up a fruit salad, with apples, bananas, satsumas, and pomegranate seeds. Every time, I wanted to cry with gratitude. Always, before this, I have been alone in the midst of big projects.
At 11 last night, he came over to me and said, “You need some air. You need to move the blood around. Let’s take a walk.” So we walked, around our neighborhood, in the dark and rain, talking about the year ahead of us, arm in arm. We pointed out different houses, the ones with capacious porches, and we imagined ourselves in them. His instincts were perfect — I needed to see something beyond that small finish line. We have a life, not just a deadline.
And so, it is done. From this perspective, I can even say, ’tis done well.
How did we celebrate? We slept in late. We ate leftover lasagna for breakfast. We took another walk in the rain. And then, we drove downtown.…and went to Gameworks.
That’s right. We played video games for two hours. After four months of dreaming up sentences and trying to make something profound sound a little more mundane, as well as cutting words in my sleep, I wanted the least intellectual activity I could find. We played old school games (I still rock at Space Invaders!) and the baseball game where someone climbs in the cage and takes swings at the screen and shot aliens with plastic guns. Mostly, I schooled him in air hockey. We leaned over the table and mock-glared at each other, and laughed out loud when someone scored a point. A little crowd gathered to watch us — we were really, really into it. When that first game was over, I threw my fists into the air and shouted, “Yeah!” with all my force and energy.
It was a mighty celebration.
(Oh, he would want you to tell me that he won the second game by seven points.)
Finally, we stopped at Dick’s for chocolate shakes. This is a funny ritual, especially for a woman who just wrote a book on eating local, seasonal, organic, and close to the ground. But, the day I first sent my book proposal off to my would-be agent, Dick’s was right across from the post office. I walked in spontaneously and bought a chocolate shake. It worked. She signed me.
(And by the way, that was less than a year ago. From first draft of the book proposal to first completed draft of the book? Eleven months.)
Now, it’s my good luck talisman, a chocolate shake at Dick’s. The Chef walks in with me, now. And you know what? Those shakes tasted really damned good.
There is more. Always more. But you can tell that I have not written all day. That feels weird after six to eight hours a day for four months. Forgive me the length. I just feel like sharing.
The Chef’s restaurant is closed this week, as they are every year in January. Blessedly, somehow, that means we have an entire week off together, with not that much to do. We’re going to revel in each other, and eat really well. I may not be here much this week. I hope you understand. Come back next week, though. I’ve missed being here every day.
Thank you for reading.
And you know what? I made the deadline! I finished the book!