Yesterday I sat at the kitchen table, black binder in front of me. It was a simple three-ring binder filled with printed pages and opened about halfway through. The pages to the left were covered in scribbled notes, stars, and arrows. Pages to the right were pristine, as yet untouched by my editing pen. This was my essay book, my work in progress. I called it Stepping Stones whenever I didn’t just call it My Book. Working with pen and paper was kind of old school, but I found that it better engaged the editing portions of my brain. I had just reached the portion of the story where it was time for me to tell about undertaking the XDM book project.
Four pages were unclipped from the binder. They represented four attempts to wrap events around story. Four times I had made different arrangements of words to tell what happened. They all lacked a connecting thread, the heart of the story which explained why all the events matter. I got up and walked away from the table yet again, hoping that a different location would help me find that thread.
Working on the XDM X-Treme Dungeon Mastery project was crazy. It really was. The quantity of work was impossible for the allotted time. The opportunity cost was horrendous, thought we didn’t know all of that until after the project was complete. For all the craziness of it, doing the project was exactly the right thing to do. Because it was right, we did the impossible. It was not the only factor to that crazy impossible spring. We were also in the midst of the Scrapyard of Insufferable Arrogance printing process and book release. We ordered slipcases to make boxed sets at the same time. Then we counted books and realized that the time had come for us to reprint Under New Management. To add even more craziness we also remodeled Howard’s office, did major book shipping events, and ran a booth at GenCon for the first time. All of that within 5 months.
I found the thread when I remembered the night when I lay curled in my bed all but broken. Putting a book together in only five weeks with no prior experience in textual layout was a real trial by fire. I came out changed, stronger. My emotional trial and triumph was the thread which linked all the facts. I scribbled notes until all the pieces were outlined. I would have to type them in detail later, but I’d caught the essence of what I intended to say.
I flipped the binder closed and got up from the table to go stand at the sink where warm air from a heating vent would blow across my feet. I could hear my younger two kids upstairs playing with a friend. My teenagers were downstairs, thoroughly involved with their screens. I could see my planner sitting on the counter, open to today’s list of tasks. Most of them were already checked off. My life as it currently stands is quite busy. My days are full, and I am frequently reluctant to list my things because I always get the same reactions of disbelief and/or admiration. Also frequently, I feel overwhelmed by my things. It is good for me to remember that what I deal with today is as nothing in comparison to the spring of 2009 when we did XDM. I have survived far worse, I can handle what is in front of me.