For much of the horse world in this northern hemisphere, October is weaning month.
Horse breeders separate the mammas and babies who’ve enjoyed an idyllic spring and summer together.
The grief, stress and crying will break your heart. And that’s just among the humans.
The larger horse farms separate the crying babies and fretting moms with acreage between them. Experienced broodmares probably feel a little deja vu, then probably realize they don’t have to be super-vigilant anymore. The foals cry and fret for at least one night, then find distractions, even new friends, in their new world.
Weaning is like those human “rites of passage, like the first day at school. Or the first overnight away from home.
Or sending out that short story manuscript.
I just sent one of my own “babies” back out into the world. Not the novel, but a short story that’s just starting to make the rounds.
The story first went out in early spring to two publications, but returned home around summer after a mixed reception. (As horse auctions veterans might say, “It no-saled.”)
One target publication, a contest, sent me an encouraging comment, yet still found others more fitting for their needs.
That’s the way it goes for writers. I’ve learned to feel like that veteran broodmare with a sense of “deja vu all over again.”
So I thought about where I’d send the story next? While I weighed my options, I dove back into the pages to give it a makeover.
I refined the beginning, but left the ending “as is.” I gave the story a new title. (Don’t ask. I’m not telling. Yet. Writers are as superstitious as equestrians.) I sent that story through another round with a different set of critiquers. I marked up the pages with a rainbow of highlighters used in Margie Lawson’s EDITS system. I ditched the pen name. (Y’all ever heard of R.M. Lane? Exactly!) And I gave the story a new destination.
Then, I let it sit some more. Weeks went by. Then, those weeks turned into months. (Yes, I can hear my writer friends screeching already, like worried mares calling for their missing foals.)
Letting a story sit is a luxury I won’t always enjoy. I even try to let these blog posts “cool” for over night, at least. Typos and goofs happen. I catch more of them once I’ve let enough time pass that I forget what I wrote. The “bad news” is that letting a story “cool” sufficiently can take a long time.
So, after fiddling with sentence construction more on the second printout, I realized I could go on perfecting it forever. Geez Louise – I had to send it on. Let it go.
The separation was tough. I had to force myself to say Now.
I’m still worrying. Is it really ready? Am I ready for it to be ready? Will readers like it? Will readers other than critiquers ever get to see it?
I know that literary agents and editors “read to reject,” like harried human resource managers with a stack of 300 resumes for one job opening.
My job is to keeping those gatekeepers reading – no matter what. And they’re a tough audience to woo.
Weaning is bittersweet, both an ending and a beginning.
Letting go is hard. Have you had to let go of something or someone (okay, you may find that too private to share here)? Or what was the hardest thing you had to release? Or, if you’re a writer, too, tell us what it’s like to release that story on which you’ve worked so hard.