Friday, September 30, 2016

Slow Down, Dammit. Slow Down!

Last weekend, I did a very stupid thing.

Previous to last weekend, I’d done well in an online contest wherein authors were encouraged to post a query letter and the first 250 words of an unpublished novel. I entered hoping to get something out of it, but never dreaming I’d come out of it with requests from two traditional publication editors to receive my work.

Here’s where the stupid thing came in:

I sent them the wrong version of my story.

How is that possible?

Well, I’ve only got fifteen versions of my story – revisions, actually – on my computer. And in my excitement at doing well in the contest, I dug into a folder I’d used for a previous submission and sent the requested files off electronically.

Then the day after, as I was re-reading old blog posts, I realized I’d sent the wrong version when I stumbled across a new introductory chapter. That I had *not* sent.


So that night I leapt into action like a cheetah on a trampoline.

I re-sent the files, explaining my mistake. And hoped for the best.

And I’m still hoping. It can take editors up to three months to swim through queries, even those they requested. So I’ll have to stew in my own juices for the next few weeks or months to see if my attempt at rectifying the mistake paid off, and if my work meets muster.

Still, I feel rather stupid. And it’s humbling. Kinda know how the coyote feels after he gets blowed up:

After the anxiety wore off, I began a-thinking: What can I learn from this, aside from fixing my filing system?

First of all, slow down.

I heard about the contest at the last minute. I panicked to get an entry in – and used an older version of my story as the entry.

I’m reminded of something President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said recently: 

When stress levels rise, when distress appears, when tragedy strikes, too often we attempt to keep up the same frantic pace or even accelerate, thinking somehow that the more rushed our pace, the better off we will be.

One of the characteristics of modern life seems to be that we are moving at an ever-increasing rate, regardless of turbulence or obstacles.

Let’s be honest; it’s rather easy to be busy. We all can think up a list of tasks that will overwhelm our schedules. Some might even think that their self-worth depends on the length of their to-do list. They flood the open spaces in their time with lists of meetings and minutia—even during times of stress and fatigue. Because they unnecessarily complicate their lives, they often feel increased frustration, diminished joy, and too little sense of meaning in their lives.

Entering the contest was a complication. I rushed it. I’m still glad I did it – I would not have two requests for manuscripts otherwise – but slowing down even by a matter of minutes would have likely made my resubmit not necessary.

I thought I was right – but I was not. And I should have known it, since I’d made great pains earlier this year in re-writing that manuscript, including a more riveting opening chapter.

I Muschged myself.

I’ll let Thomas Plummer explain:

When I was in graduate school, I took a seminar on Heinrich von Kleist from Bernhard Blume, one of the grand ole men of German scholarship. One day we were to discuss a paper by a classmate, ken Tigar, on Keleist’s play, Der zerbrochene Krug. The paper seemed sound enough to the rest of us. Tigar’s argument was based on a description written by Professor Walter Muschg, the great Kleist scholar at the University of Basel, of a plate with figures engraved on it. Professor Blume came to class with a large volume under his arm. He opened it to a picture of the plate that Muschg had described and passed it around.

"Well,” he asked, “what do you see?"

No one saw anything.

"Does the woman look pregnant to you ?” he asked.

Ken’s face blanched.

Professor Blume continued, “No, but Muschg says she is pregnant, and Mr. Tigar’s paper rests on that premise.”

Ken stammered, “I just through Muschg would be right."

Professor Blume shut the took and said, “Let that be a lesson to you. Never trust anyone. You must examine the source yourself."

I should from now on follow Blume’s advice. I should have known when I submitted my entry that I was using an older manuscript – one that had been rejected by a publisher and one I had spent at least four months revising.

Next time, I will question what I’m doing. I’ll slow down for those precious minutes.
Maybe nothing will come of my error. I hope something comes of my attempt to fix it.

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