Though it has been a month since I turned in my Hopwood submission, the fateful night still haunts me.
The fishbowl is normally crowded from the hours of 11pm and 1am. This is nothing new or out of the ordinary. If I were to make a sweeping generalization, I would say that most college students are at the peak of their productivity during these hours. So I dutifully worked in front of the obnoxiously large, yet entirely luxurious mac monitors. I printed my rough draft, all 25 pages. This is making a dent in my allotted printing pages for the semester. I sit down, and begin marking up the hard copy. Scribbling and crossing out entire paragraphs of what is supposed to be creative non-fiction. Midnight comes and goes and I stay strong. Done with the first edit. Now as I look through the pages, I realize that I must apply the changes. Interpreting my scratch marks and meticulously going through the word document. Looking down at the paper, then back up at the monitor and so on and so forth. I have since determined that while writing a shitty first draft is painful. Revising and applying the marks, is infinitely more painful. I constantly lose my place, delete the wrong sentence and move the paragraph into the wrong section. Each mistake more infuriating than the last. I prevail. First draft is revised and I am looking at the 27 inch screen with my revised work. I know that I am not done and I must go through this cycle once more. 2:28 am. When did that happen.
I print the manuscript a second time. 28 pages. This is getting rough. The students around me have thinned. Those that remain have slides of DNA helices displayed on their computer screens, but their heads are resting on their arms that are resting on the keyboards. They should just pack it in. No one will ever retain DNA sequencing after 1 am. I continue with the revising. I have burned through one green inked pen. I pull out my pink pen. Perhaps the color will give me hope, I am optimistic. Perhaps I am delusional. I continue with the revising. My work is decidedly slower. Sleep continues to close my eyelids and rock my head backwards. I must continue on with the editing. 6:47 am. I am done with the 2nd revision. Spellcheck time. It’s now 7:18. There were many errors. The Hopwood awards require that you print three copies of your manuscript. I check my margins and spacing and spelling 4 more times. 7:55. I print three copies of my thirty-three page manuscript. Ninety-nine pages. I receive an e-mail alerting me that I have used over half of my allotted printing pages. I send it to the trash. Walking over to the printers I see an older woman with heaps of papers and one of those coffee mugs that you can put pictures inside. There are images of babies in cribs and small children on tricycles. The mug is empty, she too has been here all night. I ask her what she is doing here. “Hopwoods,” she says. Her hands pushing at the sides of the stack of paper. “I thought that I would be able to submit some poetry, but I probably should have started before 1am.” I look at her stacks of paper. Three separate stacks of paper equivalent to mine. “You started tonight?” I ask her. “I had been brooding over this, but more or less. Yeah.” She responds. I stood there for a moment and then she sent a three whole punch through the stack of papers with a resounding thud. I gather my papers and muster a “good luck” to her in passing. She doesn’t look up as she responds “You too.” I hear the thud of the three hole punch as I sit back down in front of the computer.
I make my way to the Hopwood Room in Angell Hall. I turn in the manuscript, walk outside, stumble into my apartment, and sleep a deep sleep. I dream of paper cuts and rowdy commas.