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empty nest syndrome

“HOW?” I asked myself recently, “How is it that I used to reach for my trusty iPad every morning when I could pry my eyes open to work on second draft revisions to my manuscript?” Now, it’s all I can do to even think about moving mind and fingers towards such a goal?”  Then, after Mother’s Day, it hit me.  “Empty Nest Syndrome.”  We all know how parents (particularly mothers) struggle once their children leave for college, life elsewhere with a new spouse, travel abroad, or setting up a first apartment.  Never having had the good fortune to have children, might a similar phenomenon be at play as I look towards a time when I won’t be spending time with Max?  Have I become a Yiddisha Mama through the process of birthing a book?

YEP! That has to be it.  While all writers confront the day when no further meaningful edits and important changes can be made to tenderly crafted pages there comes a time when “THAT’S A WRAP!” seem the only logical words left. While we can edit until the proverbial cows come home, reality must step in so we can send our “children” off into the world.  Then, all we can do is stand back and await breathlessly the (hoped for) applause, or (dreaded) criticisms of the public as our hearts are laid open for scrutiny.

OR, is it possible that writing a (good) book resembles reading a good book? THAT must be it!  I recall years ago slowing down the pace of my reading when enraptured by an engrossing story.  As the end drew near (apparent because I checked ahead to see how many pages remained), I’d slow down.  Rather than racing through to see what happened next, each word, phrase, and chapter became all the more precious.

Cover of "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (B...

Cover via Amazon

One book in particular comes to mind. Sometime between pre-pubescence and adolescence I was reading Jules Verne’s 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA.  The adventures of the mysterious Captain Nemo had pulled me into a magnificent world of fantasy made factual.  The immensity of childhood angst was lost amid an endless sea of fantastic characters and situations. Daily life faded into obscurity when weighed against those played out so many fathoms beneath the ocean’s surface.

Once I complete my own novel’s revisions and hand it off to a professional for a solid “whooping” to lift my manuscript to its loftiest potential, it will be out of my hands. Then, the adventure and magic of creating a new world and living within another’s skin will vanish. I’ll be left alone, without Max to serve as my conscience, filtering the world’s magnificence and injustices through his far more experienced eyes.  Sigh . . . . Empty Nest Syndrome.  I will no longer anticipate that delicious sense of curiosity as to “what will happen next?” (as so often happened while Max’s story unfolded before me).  I’ll be finishing my favorite book.  Sigh.

But, WAIT!  Even after this second swipe, I need to print the entire manuscript and read every word aloud to make certain that it can stand on its own. I’ve been assured by industry experts that there is no better way than reading aloud to test whether the story that has danced in my head for the past 12 years comes across as clearly and magically as it was whispered to me.  Why, in that case I’m far from finished!  I can test drive it while bonding with my cat and dog (who don’t care what I’m saying as long as I’m directing attention towards them).  WHEW!

And then? Once revisions are in place, I’ve read it aloud making changes here and there — THEN what? The copy editor will assuredly have reams of notes as to how I can improve the manuscript — so I will have to revise it yet one more time.  Oh joy, oh rapture!  Max isn’t leaving me just yet, although even with such delays, the time will come when just like a parent packing up a darling child striking out on its own, I must come to terms with a hole in my life.  Of course, Max and I will stay in touch.  AND I’ll inherit a new room to decorate and fill with other things!

Whatever will I do with all that room?  Why, write another book, of course! And the subject matter? I’ve been wondering what Max’s life was like between his 81st year in 1992, and his liberation from Auschwitz in 1945. Those years aren’t explored in GOLANSKI’S TREASURES, and I’m most curious. I’ll bet if I asked Max he’d be more than forthcoming, and we could hang out together for years to come.

Of course, that means I’d better get busy and finish this book if I want to get to the next one!  Gotta dash . . . I have another five chapters to revise before printing and reading the whole manuscript out loud!  Until next time . . . .