Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Sometimes Self-Surgery Doesn't Work

by Julie Coulter Bellon

This blog is not for the faint-hearted. You’ve been warned.

First, let me start at the beginning. About ten years ago, I had some trauma to my foot (it was stomped on) and my big toenail turned black and fell out. Well, it grew back, but then I started having problems with it being ingrown on one side. So I went to a podiatrist and had it cut out. He also did something so that the nail wouldn’t grow back. Unfortunately, the nail did grow back, but I didn’t think it was a problem. I just got some little scissors and cut down the side of the nail myself. A little self-surgery. Now this whole procedure has been working for me with no problems until last week. The other side of the same toe had become ingrown, so I thought to myself, “I’ll just cut down that side of the nail, too.” Which I did. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get all the way down to the nail bed no matter how much I tried and it was bleeding a little and hurting like crazy. By the time I came home from church the entire toe was swollen and red. By that evening I couldn’t get to sleep it was hurting so bad and a red line of infection was moving down my toe toward my foot.

Are you cringing yet? Can you feel my pain?

First thing Monday morning, I went to the podiatrist. I gingerly took my foot out of my sandal because that’s all I could wear by this time, and he stared at my somewhat mutilated-looking toe. He clucked and shook his head as I related my self-surgery story to him. “That probably wasn’t a good thing,” he told me. Yeah, I figured that out, I didn’t say. So he proceeded to numb my toe by sticking needles in between my big toe and second toe and all around the bottom of my big toe while I clutched my chair and tried not to scream in pain and scare his other patients. He sat for a minute and made small talk and then touched my toe to ask if it was numb yet. It wasn’t. But I refrained from screaming again and even mustered up a smile as he left the room for a moment.

Here’s where the gory part comes in. Maybe you should stop reading. Or, if you are eating, stop doing that while you read. Just in case.

I looked over the surgical drape that was strategically placed so the patient can’t see what the doctor is doing and I sort of wished I hadn’t. My toe was dripping in blood, and I could see what looked like bruises forming all around the bottom. What was left of my nail looked stark and white against the red. Each drip of blood seemed to testify to my scissor-happy bad judgment. I quickly looked away.

After the surgery, the doctor showed me the part of the nail I hadn’t been able to get. It looked like a quarter inch spike that had been digging into my toe. No wonder it hurt so bad! The doctor bandaged up my toe and then said, “If anything like this happens again, you come and see me and I’ll fix you right up. No more self-surgery, okay?” I nodded and tried to make a graceful exit. Which is hard when you have floppy sandals on and a big bandaged toe sticking out of the top.

But what does this have to do with writing, you ask? Well, as most of you know, I submitted a manuscript last March and have been rewriting it ever since. Performing self-surgery if you will, and it wasn’t going very well. I finally decided to call in a professional---a trusted editor to give me her opinion. She looked over my self-surgery and made a lot of comments. In fact, the red ink was bleeding all over page after page and some of the bluntness was sort of like having a needle stuck between my toes. But then she pointed out the problem. She zeroed in on exactly what I’d been dancing around and trying to rewrite and showed me what needed to be cut out. It was so simple and obvious I can’t believe I didn’t see it before. And, as you all know, once you know what the problem is, you can fix it. So I’ve been reworking the story one more time and the good news is, once this problem is corrected, it solves a lot of other problems, which really tightens and streamlines the plot and main characters. I’m smiling just writing this because it feels so good to know what I’m doing again. I’m not adrift in the sea of rewriting anymore. I’m on a measured course with the end in sight, which, hopefully will result in an accepted manuscript.

So, the moral of the story is, sometimes self-surgery doesn’t work and you need to call in the professionals. You may go through a little pain, some blood, sweat, and tears, but in the end, it will be worth it. At least I hope it will be. My toe is starting to heal nicely, and my manuscript is well on its way. Cross your fingers for me that I’ve been given the prescription for its success.


At 12/04/2008 2:58 PM, Blogger Annette Lyon said...

Yes! I'm so happy for you! A fantastic professional is worth their weight in gold.

At 12/04/2008 5:03 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Hooray, Julie! I'm happy to hear that both the toe and the manuscript are doing well!

At 12/04/2008 11:15 PM, Blogger Stephanie Humphreys said...

Ouch! Glad your toe is healing and glad to hear you are still working on your next book. I'm anxiously waiting for it.


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