There comes a point in a book (at least there has been for me times-four, now) when one can see the landing lights in the distance; the end of the journey. The trip hasn’t always been smooth. We have flown through storms, we have dealt with unruly passengers; sometimes, we have lost our way entirely. But the lights of home are ahead.
Landing will have its own challenges. The landing strip may be bumpy, the gate may not be waiting for us. Our passengers will get off, others will get on, and the drama will start all over again.
Is it worth it, this Flying Dutchman trip through the hearts of ourselves?
As I go through my mental checklist for touchdown, I try to look at the work as a stranger might. I try to find what might ring false. I keep my eye out for the flashing light that could signal a failure somewhere. I try to balance my exhausted concentration against the knowledge that the wheels have not touched down.
This is the making-sure that everything is as if should be to bring me safely home. This is the time to set doubt aside…to be gently hard-eyed in my judgment of myself…to make sure that the auto-pilot of self-acceptance has not been left on.
Yesterday I groomed the first 45 pages of the book. Wrote a short new chapter—the last 120 seconds in the life of a character whose existence is vital to the plot, yet who never appears anywhere else, except through the memories of others. I trimmed a couple of frayed sentences; discovered a few words that were not right for their places; corrected a couple of grammatical errors that slipped past me. I asked myself how I felt about what I saw flying past me…about what I might feel tomorrow.
And what did I see in that landing checklist? I saw forty-five pages that are tight and true and air-worthy…pages that require absolutely nothing else to be done…pages which I am convinced are among the best of my writing life.
I know that there will be turbulence ahead and hard decisions to make. I may look to the book and find that the wing is on fire. Not now.
For now, I am both the destination and the means to it.
The pages glow. Like landing lights in the dark.