The really great thing about finishing a book is that you go to write your to-do list and ‘book’ is not there. Neither are any number of book-related entries.

Manuscript? Nope. Chapter 3 rewrite? Hell no. Research ‘anal retentive’ for Chapter 40? Ask that guy on Level 6 about formatting? Get the Czech word from Grandma Zuzi for a person-whose-hungry-heart-has-become-a-stomach-that-is-eating-them-alive. Update Evernote. Download that cool mind-mapping app… buy a new pencil sharpener/laptop-case/ring binder/more colored pens (or notebooks, butcher’s paper, chocolate, Merlot, beta blockers, cold medicine, miso soup packs…).  None of that’s there.

A colleague and I were recently on the train together.  We were kind of staring into space like Zombies because he had recently submitted his doctorate and I had just gotten the book to the agent and on top of that, we’d each had to teach five freshman classes in a row.

I said, ‘Why don’t I feel euphoric?’

And he said, ‘I know. You live and die with the work.’

You live and die with the work. That’s it. I know it’s been said before, but never better, to my mind. Oscar Wilde noted that a book is never finished, it is merely abandoned, and that’s kind of it, but doesn’t get to the heart of it the way my friend did.  I lived the book for eighteen months or so. I lived through its conception, development and multiple revisions. I abandoned it once, killed it off twice. I lived through its revival and re-editing, and fought over it with my husband, agent, and best friend. I pimped it out to readers, writers groups, and family members. I lived through its final completion and tedious production into a manuscript from the multiple chapters, flyleaf pages, fragments, back stories, prologues and so on. I lived through sending it off in a caffeinated haze and then getting drunk and waking the next morning to the realization that I’d sent the wrong file and would therefore have to resend it in a hungover daze. And now it’s gone.

A part or parts of me have gone with it. Traveled through the ether (in both PDF and Word format) to sit on a virtual desktop in a city far-far-away, abandoned and waiting to live again. Tell-tale heart and soul survivor. Eye of God, Achilles’ heel, pound of flesh, and finger of time. Savage breast, yeah. It’s all there and I’m here. I check my pulse. Stare at the blank page in my diary.

I write, or maybe just imagine writing.  I think ‘wash dog’, and ‘call the dishwasher man,’ and I think about rescuing my son from his funk and helping my husband find the sewer line to our house, and I get up to look for my notes on the Eumenides for the classes I teach on Thursday, and then I sit down again. I’ve a facial next Monday and my writing group tomorrow.

I stare at this blank page in my diary, thinking about the next book (maybe a sequel, Mr. Wilde). I do that flippy thing with my pen, and wait to live again.

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J.S. BREUKELAAR is the author of the novel, American Monster and the collection, Ink. You can find her work at Juked , Prick of the Spindle, Fantasy Magazine, Go(b)et Magazine, New Dead Famlies, Opium Magazine, and in anthologies such as Women Writing the Weird, among others. You can also find her at www.thelivingsuitcase.com

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