1) A month off from work. I am not exaggerating; that’s how I did the last revision. And not just a month off from my full-time job, it was a month away from the frenzy of New York City, a month away from TV, a month away from the love of my life, which made it next to impossible to sleep nights, plus I was in a house all alone in the woods (it felt like it to me) and was afraid to go near the fireplace during the night and halfway through my visit found a door below my bed that led to what I assume was the boiler room that could be accessed from outside the house without any kind of lock, which completely and totally freaked me out and it was all I could do to get on the bed in the dark and stay there. I wrote mornings. I wrote afternoons. I skipped events, and a few times dinner, and wrote nights. This is what it took for me to get those 344 pages into the shape that they are now. I don’t know if I have it in me to do it again.
2) Other people. My perspective is shot. I see the book as it is, and only as it is, and that’s how it lives in my head, fully completed and grown. I am having a difficult time imagining it any other way. I would need people to read the thing and give me feedback. But not just any people. In my experience, people have let me down. They have not come through when I needed them. They did not help me in the way I needed to be helped. I have asked many people for help and they have said no. I have trusted people to read what I have written and they have not responded . . . ever. I have a tendency to be too trusting, and lately to protect myself I’ve walled up this tendency. Now I show most people nothing and a few people I like and respect a few things. E doesn’t count because he sees everything, but since he’s read my book at least three times I sometimes think he knows it better than me. So maybe the next one should be . . .
3) E. If I did a rewrite I would need E’s help more than he could imagine. Plot ideas. Edits. Inspiration. Understanding. Home-cooked pasta sauce with the zucchini the way I like it. Is he willing and able to live through another season of me revising this thing?
4) Cold hard cash. Because we are broke and this is not the time to be fiddling with a literary fiction manuscript, throwing blind story changes in to please some person who may not even like the new product anyway. Right now we need to pay the rent, plus eat and deal with credit cards and student loans and even if in the back of my mind a glimmer of fantasy pictures me quitting my current job to work on this thing, I know it can’t ever happen. (Guess how I wrote the very first draft? I quit a job to do it. Yeah, practical.) Sometimes I think the only thing that could save us is the Lotto fairy.
5) Patience. This is the great test of my life: wanting things right away and having to face the fact — time and time again — that I will not get them when I want them. I will have to wait. And I hate to wait. If I revise again it means extending the wait even longer.
6) Pharmaceuticals. Why did I quit doing drugs and drinking? Oh, right, I had this ridiculous idea of working hard and getting up mornings and being a writer. I didn’t want any distractions; I wanted a clear head. And just look where that landed me. What I need now is some kind of magical substance that will keep me from sleeping, keep me from procrastinating, force me to be inspired and write the Best Stuff Ever. What kinds of street drugs are out and about these days? Maybe there’s one like that.
7) Hope. Let it flow eternal. Because I need it right now.