I’ve written in previous blog entries about my application for a mentor for the New Zealand Society of Authors Mentor Programme 2020, and the trepidation and anxiety bundled with that. I’m not going to lie; I’m still incredibly anxious.
On Friday afternoon, I realized I didn’t really have much more to add to the application form (which is online), and after about 10 seconds of, “will-I?, won’t-I?”, I hit the button to submit it. It wasn’t that easy. I had to commit by paying an application fee and progress through a few more screens to fully submit the initial application form. The momentum grew throughout the process, so, before I knew it, the form and application fee were paid, and I was officially in the running.
Over the weekend, I worked on the other sections of the application I needed to submit by mail to refine them. The part with the most work was the sample of the novel I wanted mentorship for. I confided in Noel that I kept working on it, adjusting here and there, and I still didn’t feel it was as good as some of my other works (all short stories). He told me, as he has before, there comes a point where you can’t fiddle with a story anymore due to the risk of turning something good back into mediocre. I have to admit that I felt the same way.
I was up late Monday night tweaking it.
On Tuesday, I was at work, and I had promised myself that I would finish up all the parts, print them on our nice printer, and then collate the remainder of the application: the approved application form, emailed to me after I submitted it on their Web site; a one-paragraph biography including my writing history, and my goals in having a mentor; a synopsis of the novel; and a sample of the work completed so far.
After printing out the first three areas, I opened up the sample of the work I had completed so far and assembled specifically for this specific novel, and I touched it up even more. Before I printed it, though, I discovered a copy from a few years ago, and I had a look at it.
That version — around my fifth draft, one I hadn’t noticed on my OneDrive before — only had the first chapter but some far superior revisions. Damn. Conflict in my head.
The language was tight, and it seemed more refined. It matched the level of some of my short stories that I had submitted for consideration for publication. But, to be honest, it didn’t feel like it belonged so much with the rest of the writing I had completed. There was a real disconnect in voice.
In the submission, there was clear progression from one chapter to the next. I’d assigned dates to each chapter, matching the historical weather conditions. And the overall feeling of the piece was tighter.
What is more important? The perfection of the lexicon for a submission for a mentor to help perfect the piece, or an overall strength of the story that draws a reader in, albeit not perfect, to draw a mentor in to help perfect the piece?
I decided the latter argument won.
It printed out so very pretty, and I inserted colored paper with titles on it to separate the sections out. I even bound the pages together to make a small booklet. Fate threw one obstacle in my way; I punched the holes wrong in a few pages in the sample on one of the copies.
Inhale. Count to three. Exhale.
Go to computer and print again.
It still printed wrong (as I had a cover page which didn’t manage to print as it is technically page zero), so I had go back to my computer again and print the cover page too.
Stepping into the file room where we stored courier pouches: there were no ones to fit the bound submissions in, only ones that were too small. As I was in work because my car needed a service and a Warrant of Fitness, and the dealership is only blocks away from work, I decided to stay at work until my car was finished, pick it up, then stop at the post office (where our work has a post office box) to get a courier bag and pick up the mail for work at the same time.
An hour and a half or so after the dealership told me it would be completed, my car was finally ready. After picking it up, I went to the post office, checked the mail — no mail, and Noel had picked it up the day before, so I should have expected so much — and then I bought the courier bag, placed the address on it, put the application into the bag, and sent it on its merry way.
On the way home, anxiety welled inside me. What have I just done? Will this have any chance of getting a mentorship grant?
The critic in my head ranted. It sucked. You suck. This will never get anywhere. You just spent tons of time and money to submit this, and they will think it sucks, and you will have wasted more time, money, and energy. You’ll be unhappy, and you’ll stop writing again, and then it will be another 5 years before you venture out of your cave and do anything else, because you suck, and you’re pathetic.
The kinder side of me kicked in. If it’s not selected, you need to keep working until another opportunity comes along. Sure, you spent time and money to submit it, but you’ll never know unless you actually try. If it’s not selected, guess what? You need to keep honing it. Don’t give up. Don’t let it be another 5 years before you venture out of your exile and do anything else. Never give up. Never surrender. You’re talented, and you’re on to something.
By the time I got home, I was exhausted. Mentally exhausted.
It did have a bit to do with the submission, yes. There were other things in play too — I’m nearly 46, I have barely any retirement savings, I just spent over $1,000 getting my car a Warrant of Fitness and up-to-spec to get that, I’m in debt, my car is falling apart, I feel like I’m falling further behind in every aspect of life, I need to pay for my cat to get her teeth cleaned today because it’s overdue (and I couldn’t afford it before), I’m worried if she will make it through that all, my teeth are having issues and I need a new retainer but I can’t afford that either (my cat and my car are more important), I can’t seem to make ends meet week-to-week, and I’m not poorly paid and don’t even have huge bills to pay other than mortgage and groceries usually, but it’s all too overwhelming — and all that seemed to crystalize in a few moments on one single day. And being at work, I realized too how much I have given and how much I have sacrificed my personal wants to give that much, and that 2020 has to be my year. I have to work hard towards my goals this year if I have any shot at recovering from depersonalization and getting published.
I kinda secluded myself into my office at home and did a little work I didn’t get done at work. I purposely avoided my writing to give my mind, my heart, and my creativity a break.
The submission. The optimistic part of me, which sadly has had the edges chipped off of it and the face eroded over the last several years, thinks I’ve got a shot at getting a mentor to take my novel to that next level.
The pessimistic part of me, which grows like a silent cancer year on year, feels I don’t have a hope in hell of getting a mentor.
I’m a tough guy. I’ve been through more than my fair share of hardship. I’ll push through this and somehow make it work if I don’t get a mentor. But I really need to set down a plan in many aspects of my life to get my shit together.