What a feeling: elation, exuberance, exhilaration!
For the last few weeks, I’ve been working on a chapter. One chapter. I mean, one chapter, for weeks — that’s plural, more than one, weeks!
Here’s what happened. I’m working on a book on leadership, working with a major author who has held White House positions and Harvard directorships and all sorts of major stuff and such. The finished draft was due this fall; we finished the finished draft. Met with the editor, a wonderful and brilliant man, with whom I’ve worked before and I trust implicitly and totally. He liked the manuscript, liked it a lot — but Chapter 1 had to go. Part of it worked, but the truth was, we pretty much needed to scrap it and write a new Chapter 1.
He was absolutely right: we did.
So we started. But the thing would not cooperate.
For the last few weeks, I’ve been applying myself to an exercise that has felt very much like what it must feel like to be an ant taking a stroll and suddenly finding oneself hip-deep in a tureen of molasses.
Toward the end of the day, Ana would call down to my office: “How’s it going?” she would say, cheerily, encouragingly, believing-in-me-utterlyly. “Good,” I would reply—most unconvincingly. At dinner I would tell the truth: “I made progress … I think. But progress measured in inches.” And what I needed, as we both knew, was progress not in inches, not in yards, but in miles.
So every day, a few more inches.
And then last night, something wild happened: miles.
It started to feel like it was going somewhere, like we might actually have some flow to this thing. And tonight, it’s finished. Just wrote the last word—at midnight.
You probably will not see this book or read this chapter till a year from now — but when you do, remember this moment, because it’s when Page 1 started to work.
Mark Twain once said, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.”
Yesterday I had lightning bug. Today I think I hit lightning.