Friday, January 08, 2010

Letting go

Mumbling feverishly to myself, I edit a manuscript as quickly as I can. "Gotta get this done before school starts."

My muse walks silently into my room and watches me for a while, then she says, "It's time to stop."

I turn around and see her standing in the doorway. "What?"

"Time to stop."

"Stop what?"

"Stop trying to do everything."

Pushing my glasses higher on the bridge of my nose, I say, "What are you talking about?"

She walks to me and sits on the edge of my desk, folding her hands neatly in her lap. "I want you to take a break from Medusa's Muse."

I stare at her so hard the snakes look like their getting nervous and retreat behind her head. "Are you joking? Wasn't this all your idea? What the hell are you saying?"

She looks up at the ceiling and sighs, then slowly nods. "Yes. It was my idea. All of it. I urged you to start a press and become a publisher, but the reality is you can't do it right now. It's impossible. No one can do everything that you do."

"I'm not gonna quit."

Looking at me, she smiles. "I'm not saying quit. I'm saying stop. There's a difference." She bites her lip as if deciding how to explain herself. "Quitting would be shutting it all down and never publishing again. Stopping is taking a break to reevaluate your situation." She points to the bookcase beside her which is crammed with text-books and binders. "You are a student now, which is good. It's important that you do that and study hard so you'll have a good paying job helping people, something that will make you happy. But that means you have even less time running Medusa's Muse, and it was hard enough to do before you started school."

"But if I stop now what will keep Medusa's Muse going? I don't want it to end."

"It won't. You have three books published which will still require attention and energy. As long as those books are in print your company will survive."

I slump in my chair. "Look at my own book. Sales have been dismal because I haven't had time to market it."

"Exactly. And look at the punk anthology. Look how long it's taken to be published and how many delays there have been because of lack of time and money. The biggest problem you have is trying to do it all on your own. All the publishing, marketing, and managing, on top of graduate school and being a mom. You are not Wonder Woman, no matter how much you pretend to be one."

"So what do you want me to do?"

Leaning back, she crosses her arms and sighs. "Stop being so hard on yourself. You've accomplished a great deal, even more than I thought you could. You have nothing more to prove."

"I'm not trying to prove anything..."

"Yes you are. You always are. You have to be the most productive and efficient or you're a failure. Time to let that idea go."

"I don't..."

She holds up her hand to silence me. "Finish the anthology and then stop publishing books for a while, at least until you're done with school. Give your limited attention to the books that you've published, but encourage the writers to do more of the marketing. Pour your energy into your child and school. Let yourself feel proud of the three books you've helped create and the dreams you helped come true. And trust that Medusa's Muse will survive without your constant attention."

"Is that all?" I laugh wearily.

"Yes. That's all." She smiles and stands. "It's time to enjoy what you've created."

Enjoy what I've created? How do I do that? All I know how to do is create. I don't know how to relax and not long for the next project, the next creative endeavor? I doubt I'm capable of relaxing. But just the idea creates a tiny glimmer of happiness in my heart. What if I let go a little, stopped imposing impossible deadlines on myself, and sat back to enjoy some of the so-called fruits of my labor? Can I learn to just be proud of what I've already accomplished, without demanding more from myself?

Why do I push myself so hard?

"I'll think about it," I say.

"Good." My muse stands and walks out the door as silently as she entered. I sit back in my chair, stare at my laptop, and wonder what it would be like to stop running this race I've created for myself.


Kirsten Imani Kasai said...

Your muse is wonderfully wise. She takes such good care of you! Medusa's Muse will survive. Like a dormant plant, it will have it's season, flower and give fruit again.

alpharat said...

There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking a break to recharge batteries, and anything I can do to help market the anthology is something I'm more than willing to do.

Corrie Howe said...

I don't have a Muse, but I have a spiritual adviser who often tells me the same thing. And do you know what? He's often right. It is amazing how things survive without me. And how much happier I am too.