Sometimes, the things we say we’ll never do are exactly the things we find ourselves doing.
Back when I was still wearing two braids and walking around barefoot everywhere, I told myself I would never make a speech. Never. But by the time high school graduation came along, despite a thousand firm declarations that I wouldn’t, my mother shook her head. “I think you should do it,” she said—and because mothers are usually right, I did.
Granted, I read the speech off a folded sheet of copy paper because I was too nervous to face the crowd. And my knees were jelly. And I stood off-centered on the stage instead of behind the pulpit like anyone else.
But I did it.
For the rest of my life, I’ll look back and remember what it felt like. Standing on the stage, reading my heart, hearing the sniffles and glancing up to see tears glistening in the eyes of endless people I love.
That was special. Mother was right.
Want to know another thing I said I would never do? Re-write a novel. I’ve heard the stories all my life. The author second guesses their own ability and burns their manuscript. Then, years later, they rewrite the story that echoes through the ages as a classic. Or the novelist loses their entire document to a computer crash, so with a blank page and a blinking cursor, they start anew.
I never thought that was something I could do.
I never wanted to.
If I ever lost a novel or was prompted to start over, I would abandon ship and try for a different vessel. Anyway, that’s what I told myself.
Garden of the Midnights was the story I wrote many years ago when I was younger, when I knew less about manors and England and history. I made mistakes. I broke writing rules. I did too little research and too much overwriting…but it had my soul. Somehow, it was alive. The characters breathed. The tears in their pillow, the aches in their throat, became a part of who I was and what I felt.
This was the story I loved most.
But the edits and the mistakes and the problems overwhelmed me. Like the fearful girl in braids who refused to make a speech, I wanted to throw in the towel and say with even more defiance, “I will never re-write a novel. Never.”
But Mother knew what was needed. She knew the story was too much a part of me to tuck away in some drawer, forgotten and dusty, unread by anyone. So she nodded her head and said, “I think you should do it.”
I didn’t want to.
I was afraid because it wasn’t easy.
But because mothers are usually right, I did. Now, Garden of the Midnights is ready. My heart is still tangled in all the words, all the twists, all the secrets—but this time more, because the book has yet another part of me. The part that was fearful. The part that was too close to quitting. The part that finished anyway.
For the rest of my life, I’ll look back and be thankful. When someone writes me a note that they enjoyed the book, or gets a whimsical tone to their voice when they talk about a scene, or looks up from the pages with tears shimmering in their eyes.
That will be special. Mother was right.