Thursday-tired—that unique and special brand of tired. Too tired to think much, to do much. Too tired to try to break the back of the chapter as I’d planned to do. The work of gutting the thing and massively rearranging its flow asked an effort far more extreme than the nibbling around the edges that has been my contented occupation on other tired nights lately.

Instead of climbing that personal mountain, I gave myself the guilty pleasure of one of the few TV shows that I actually like. Not much of a surprise that afterward I was seized with the aching need to validate my existence by going back to the page.

So. With only 90 minutes before bedtime, I ripped out the diseased section—seven of eleven pages…a massive toll. Set the chapters onto a workspace of their own and started pasting them back together in a rough new order. Knew that the polish wouldn’t be there; hoped instead for the lightning to strike, for the emotional logic to assert itself.

And there something happened that I had not, had never, imagined.

As when one startles-awake the proofreading eye by reading text backwards rater than forward, I saw the chapter in a new way. I saw how hollow the thing was. A house built on a foundation of straw. Some good bricks in there…some potentially great ones. But a yawn everywhere in between. A chapter that didn’t move the plot, that had no internal propulsion or emotional richening.

And here’s the thing: I wasn’t scared.

Sometimes, the realization that you’ve got nothing is a stark and terrifying thing; a disheartening and defeating one. How in hell could you have attacked the work with such commitment and confidence days ago, only to find in the harsh mental daylight that you’d been blowing smoke up your anatomy all along?

And why didn’t that knowing trouble me tonight?

Do we, in our weariness and optimism, ignore the little voice in the head that’s been saying, “ehhhhh, maybe” all along? Did we tell ourselves that the thing was better than it actually was for no other reason than because we needed it to be? And is it not the acknowledgement what is wrong the bravest, most optimistic step toward what is right?

That’s the kind of clarity I’ve been waiting for. Even with the prospect of a torturous restructuring ahead, even with the sheer volume of work and self-doubt that comes with it, I’ll take it. From satisfaction comes adequate output. The good stuff? That comes from the challenge.