On napping, prizes, and obscurity

I’m back to napping! And I’m remembering why I love it. All the best thoughts arrive upon waking from a good (short) nap. During the summer, I got by with no naps, partly by lowering my weekly early morning workouts to twice/week, but mostly by nipping back to bed upon arriving home. With no one rushing off to school, our family got in the habit sleeping in. But it didn’t feel like napping, it felt like going back to bed. Like the work-out had been another dream-state.

We’re back to the school routine, and we’re suffering just a little bit, collectively. Trying to adjust bedtimes and wake times. Accepting that there will be after-school meltdowns. Everyone’s tired. Evenings are squeezed. Kevin and I were still doing lunches and dishes last night at 9pm.

There was no moment for a nap yesterday to balance out my early morning run.

So I’ll admit that rising at 5am this morning, in order to go exert myself whilst clad in spandex, was not exactly what I wanted to do. I’m making spin/weights sound way less fun than it is. By the end of the work-out, it felt completely worth it (as it always does), and after breakfast and the getting-ready whirl, everyone departed, and the house was quiet by 8:30. Quiet by 8:30!!! Empty! Just me and the dogs.

So I napped.

I drifted off. And woke with a clear mind, feeling at peace, filled with ideas, thoughts, answers, calm. Call me crazy (or lazy), but I consider napping to be an important spiritual process. Somehow, while gently drifting toward sleep, my mind becomes more open, more at ease. To be creative, one needs to be at ease, not panicking. Many a time, a nap has set me right simply by allowing my body and mind to relax.

This is a long preamble. What I want to write about is the announcement of the Giller longlist earlier this week; should I write about it? Still not sure. But I’m an obscure CanLit mama who had an eligible book out this year (among 226 others), and this brief moment in time is wound into the rest of my life. I knew it would be a long shot to find Juliet on the list, but hope springs eternal, and every Canadian writer understands what a career boost it is to have any association with the Giller attached to one’s book.

In the days and hours leading up to the announcement, I couldn’t get away from thinking about it. It dogged me, no matter how I tried to redirect my thoughts. Such is the power of a prize. So here’s the strange thing: notwithstanding my immediate gut response of plain old crushing disappointment not to see Juliet on the list, I’ve been experiencing an unexpected lightness of heart since the announcement came and went.

I’m grateful to everyone who told me they were sure it would be there, especially those wonderful booksellers who’ve had Juliet’s back all along.

But I didn’t know how heavy the weight of expectation/hope had been pressing on me until after my nap this morning. I got up, voted, hung laundry, planned my attack on today’s scheduling adventures, and realized that I was feeling … really good.

I’m not waiting for anything. The worst outcome has happened. The sadness is over. And in its place is a feeling of gratitude for the sweet minutiae that I’m often too cluttered and harried and anxious to see. Maybe it’s an after-the-storm effect. (And it rained torrentially here on Tuesday.) It sounds trite to say it: gratitude for my kids, for our house, for our neighbourhood, for health, for friends, for kindness, for running errands with two four-year-old boys in tow. For everything, I guess.

I wonder how other obscure CanLit writers are feeling this week.

And I wonder, I’ll admit, how those who made the list are feeling (with special shout-outs to not-so-obscure CanLit mamas, Annabel Lyon, who kindly helped my daughter with her project on ancient Greece this past year, and Katrina Onstad, with whom I shared a seminar table while we were both doing our Master’s at U of Toronto.)

If I could change one thing about myself, it would be the anxiety I feel when outcomes are out of my control. What was I worrying about, all along? What was I hoping for, really? Was it external affirmation, some kind of proof? And if so, why?

Okay, another thing I would change: I would live, always, without fear of failure.

Today, first day
Today, another first day


  1. m

    Well, I was surprised that Juliet wasn’t on the list and had started an email to you that I never finished thanks to the busyness of these first few days back at school/a manuscript deadline. I’m glad that you have lightness about it–that’s really the way to be about most things, although it can be hard to find it. I was rooting for you and your book. It deserves the widest audience possible.

    If you ever start a spiritual movement, do let me know. Napping as important process is something I can *definitely* get behind!

    • Carrie Snyder

      I’d still love to read your unfinished email.

      And starting a spiritual movement based on napping? Brilliant. Let me sleep on it.

  2. Kerry Clare

    There can be such relief in failing– you do it, and learn to survive after all. But then again not getting on a prize list is hardly a definition of failure. The Juliet Stories is such a success. Congratulations to you once again! xo

    • Carrie Snyder

      I take your point, Kerry re prize lists and definition of failure. Rationally, I agree. I think, however, that fears aren’t always rational — so I must include irrational, nonsensical, invented, and imaginary failures as being among the things that I (sometimes) fear, and would like to stop fearing. There’s a word for those fears, isn’t there? Maybe they’re the monsters hiding under the bed.

  3. Sarah

    When the list came out, I raced through the names looking for yours Carrie. I was disappointed and shocked for sure. I’m glad you’re feeling good though and getting through the days with happy thoughts. Take care!
    Sarah C

  4. sheree

    I’m with Sarah … …I was so hoping for your book- the one I loved so much this year, MY FAV— to be on that Giller list and I thought of you all day. Not sure if it helps– Carrie, but I always hoped to make the children’s GG list — I mean like for over 20 years — twice thought I had a really good chance but I never got to see my name there ..the year of The Gravesavers I was really disappointed. By the time Pluto’s Ghost came out I knew it was a lotto. It’s not that we write for this but it is honest to say we want our books read and those lists matter to some extent. And we all need the money. So we write on ..live on ,nap on, dream on. Hold the vision that is yours -cuz like Kerry said — the list is just a list — and your book is beautiful and true and winning in all the ways that count.

    And now, on another note — I think I need you to be my personal trainer. . I’ve um..tried to eat my way through grief the past year and the end result is well… let’s spin or do something fun in Winnipeg!

    • Carrie Snyder

      Actually, it does help, Sheree. I know most writers face disappointment over the course of their careers, but I think we generally don’t want to talk about it — so it helps to hear your experience.

      Thank you for keeping me in your thoughts. I felt pretty alone on Tuesday, and it’s genuinely cheering to know that I wasn’t.

      re Winnipeg: I would love to! I always look forward to the gyms at hotels, trying out the equipment, running on the treadmills (or exploring the paths nearby, if there happen to be paths). Will our times in Winnipeg overlap?! Oh, I hope so!

  5. Heidi

    Thank you for this. The reminder that creativity requires ease, not panic or tension, something I’ve lately been relearning. Naps as spiritual process–it’s so true, and so counter to what my inner slave driver tries to tell me, and I’m happy that I now have a napping spiritual movement to invoke against it. And then, your response to the Giller list, whose lack of Juliet upset me, and I’m only a reader. I read through the list several times to be sure I hadn’t missed it. And I was glad you shared your feelings with us, rational and irrational.

    • Carrie Snyder

      Thank you, Heidi. Honestly, I think the aloneness I felt on Tuesday has been completely washed away by the warmth of these messages. I had to read yours out loud to my husband – the part about reading the list over several times. Somehow shared disappointment feels so much less burdensome than silent disappointment.

      Nap on!

  6. Oh My Word!

    It’s funny to read this post as I’ve JUST sent you an email telling you what a wonderful experience I had reading Juliet. I hope that the kind words from your peers, friends, and fans bolster you – it was a fabulous book deserving of much recognition.

    I am constantly practicing my Oscar acceptance speech in the bathroom…if I’m never nominated, I’m going to need 5 consecutive naps.

    Also, I’ve never been in a movie. What a day.

    • Carrie Snyder

      Thank you, Zara. I’m so glad you connected with Juliet. I can’t say with complete honesty that I’ve bounced all the way back up to equilibrium, assuming there is such a thing, but, then, I have a tendency to set way too much stock in measurements like prizes, etc. (in school, I was always gunning for the A plus).

      I don’t have an Oscar speech. Maybe I should work on one. Sounds fun.

  7. Tricia Dower

    I can relate! And I salute your struggle for equilibrium. It helps to remember that the jury comprises three people whose tastes are as personal as those of any other three people. They chose the books they could agree on (no small feat). Those books are not necessarily the “best” of 2012. The fact that so many readers love your book must be comforting.

    • Carrie Snyder

      Yes, it is comforting. I love and cherish messages out-of-the-blue from readers.

      re prizes: I think, like most writers, I keep hoping there will be an easier path at some point in this journey, and a prize list can feel like an entryway to that path — whether or not it is, well, that’s another question, isn’t it.


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