Posted by: jeannineatkins | July 2, 2014

Finishing a Manuscript

For a moment I breathe deeply and feel like I’m very clean, as if just out of a shower on a hot day, before I start to get sticky again. There’s no fanfare on the porch, no parades, cheers, or party. Just the heavy-breathing dog, the cat curled into a sleep so dense you’d think I’d popped him in a steamer. The table is as quiet and cake-less as it was yesterday. Finishing a book is like the stillness of summer morning, the heat just starting to thicken, the birdsong at slow speed. Or the stillness of darkness, with fireflies winking here and there. I look at an empty yellow pad with affection. What should I write on it? Chapter one? That seems like a good idea. But I’m not in a hurry.

My work got easier toward the end, fixing fixes, tending to fine touches that will attract notice or not, though there were times when the sense that I was inching toward the end disappeared and my calm turned to freaking out. I read through it all again, until the problems seemed few enough that I knew another pass through only meant I was stalling. I had fun printing out a copy that I’m finally not going to scribble all over. I queried someone who’s not a friend or husband, who may or may not offer an overview of her reactions, but whose primary role is to decide whether this is something that can be published successfully, which is a gentler term for money-making. My focus has been on whether the work is as good as I can make it, which is different, though I hope it might be both.

So what now? There’s a thin line, if there’s a line at all, between finishing one thing and beginning another. But I’m trying to mark it, even as I rely on the satisfaction of completing a work to ease me into a new start. For a while, I’ll complete two essays, take some looks at two picture books put away, try to blog a little more. I want to write poems that are whole in themselves. I meant the ones I wrote in Finding Wonders each to hold their own ground, but I also had to keep narratives threading through dozens of poems. I’d like to be bit firmer about first and last lines.

Imagination likes a vacation, even a short or pretend one. I get to put my feet on the porch table and read slim volumes of poems. But some of the best poetry breaks up our concentration. It makes us dream or think, and doesn’t mind when we pause in the middle of a page, put down the paperback mid-stanza. Poetry is kind, maybe even ever so quietly claps, glad to inspire. I find myself dreaming, which leads to note-taking.

Ideas flutter like pale moths beating the screens. There’s an old house in the woods. Secrets. Fear of night. And a bit of a tone, a desire to work with shorter sentences, stay in middle reader territory. But who knows? I pour myself lemonade. I consider a swim.



  1. Congratulations on finishing! Now you need to do something about that cake-less table. 🙂

  2. Kudos, Jeannine! Glad you’re living in the calm.

  3. Congratulations, Jeannine! A swim sounds like a luscious gift to the body to mark the end of one project and the taking up of another.

    • Thank you! A swim did sound good, but there was thunder, so just got the anxious dog’s huffing turning to drooling near my feet. But a swim will happen!

  4. Enjoy a well-earned break!

    • Thanks, Jenn. We’ll see what the muse has in mind. She’s a tricky one. Sometimes you tell her you’re on a break and that’s just when she barges in.

  5. Congrats! Enjoy that wonderful feeling.

    • Thank you, Dori. And you’re right to counsel enjoyment. We know that finishing can turn on a dime to not-finished.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: