Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Nothing like perspective

So, last Friday, I got a massive revision letter for my latest YA. By "massive" I mean, rewrite the entire book. Um... yeah. Nothing like that kind of a revision letter to make even the most confident author tumble into a pit of despair, wondering if this is the beginning of the end, when whatever magic touch has gotten her this far suddenly vanishes, leaving her wallowing in a pit of horrific words that make no sense to anyone.

As any author would do, I did pull myself out of it and got to work, but at the back of my head was still that little niggle of dismay that I had written such a bad first version that I had to rewrite it.

Then, at exactly 10:07 this morning, I found myself sitting in the dentist chair with a bit (a wee bit) of numbing gel on my gums and this evil looking hygenist wielding this MASSIVE metal syringe with this HUGE needle on it, intending to sink that sucker into my gum. Repeatedly.

Um, hello? I don't know if you have recently analyzed your mouth, but there's not a whole heck of a lot a room for two inch needles to be sinking in there. So, I'm sitting in that chair, tilted so far back that my head's about six inches off the ground and my feet are up by the ceiling (no doubt to make it impossible for me to bolt when the hygenist confesses she has fantasies about causing pain to anyone who writes books for a living) and I'm trying SO HARD not to look at this frickin' syringe.

But I can't help it. It's got my name on it and it's coming in for the kill.

So, as I'm sitting there in my headstand position, awaiting the stab of death, I close my eyes and try to remember to breathe. And then that sucker sinks in and she's like, "Oh, this might hurt."

Gee, thanks for stating the obvious. I can feel that needle ripping through every formerly intact cell in my mouth. And I'm starting to sweat. And my stomach is beginning to churn. And the room is beginning to spin. And I'm cold. And hot. And I realize I'm really close to passing out. Yeah, terror will do that do you.

"How are you doing?" the hygenist cheerfully asks as she yanks the needle out and shoves in another place that isn't numb yet (translation: That hurts, you psycho b*tch from h*ll! (I tend to get ornery when I'm so terrified I'm on the verge of passing out)).

Like I can answer her. I have a syringe wedged into my gum. I settle for a little fantasy in which I hurl her through the window and jump on her, shoving multiple syringes into her happy little smiling face.

She stabs some more and I scrunch my eyes shut, wondering what will happen if I faint. Will she even notice, or will I tumble off the chair and totally embarrass myself? Will they go ahead and drill while I'm passed out and unaware, or will they be cruel enough to wake me up before proceeding?

I don't know, but the room is spinning violently and deep breaths aren't going cut it. I'm.... going... down...

"All done," she chirps. "Be back in a few minutes."

Thank God.

She leaves, so I try to text message my husband to tell him how much I'm freaking out, but my hands are shaking so much I can't even hit the keys on my phone. Yeah, I'm a wimp. So sue me.

So anyway, while I wait for the full numbing to go into effect, I pull out my Katie MacAlister book and discover that reading about hot sex is ALMOST enough to make the churning in my stomach and the spinning of the room stop. "Almost" being the operative word.

So then the dentist sashays up and taps my gums with her poker. I don't feel it, so all is good.

So I relax a bit and let her drill, marveling the wonders of novocaine as she turns part of my tooth into a fine powder. She finishes up that filling without any problem, and life is great. One more small filling to do and I'm home free. God, those revisions are looking good, right now. I can't wait to get back to them.

So, then she starts drilling on filling number two, and I feel a flash of hot or cold or something. I immediately tense. Was that the drill? Can I feel her drilling? No. Impossible. I'm over-reacting. Then I feel a sharp stab of what is clearly pain and I start to panic. Oh, God. The hygenist from h*ll didn't numb my tooth all the way! I knew I'd sensed some anti-author sentiment from her! Do I stop the dentist? If I do, I'll get more shots (oh, God), but what if she's almost done? I can take this level of pain for another few seconds. But what if it gets worse? And how much worse will it get? What level of pain can I take before I start screaming? Another stab of pain and my body involuntarily jerks, but she doesn't notice. So I'm sweating now, my body so tense it almost hurts, as I wait for the kill. The white hot flash of pain that will make my brain explode. How bad will it be? Or will she sit back and say she's done? Will I be spared? Then she moves the drill and a white hot stab of pain makes my whole body convulse. She immediately stops. "Can you feel that?"

"Um, yeah." That's why I'm a sickly green and sweating and shaking. Duh.

So she pulls out that needle and I can't even bear the thought of it, so I close my eyes as she stabs this monstrosity into my gum again. "Can you feel the shot?" she asks.

I nod, as I feel that needle work its way through even fiber in my mouth. But, on the plus side, it doesn't hurt as much as that drill did, so we're making progress right?

So, she finishes numbing me up, pulls out that drill again (no, please no!) and gets back to work.

Thankfully, no more pain.

Ten minutes later, I'm walking to my car, my whole body shaking so much from the aftermath of the adrenaline that I seriously consider sitting down in the middle of the parking lot until I regain my strength and control of my body.

Being the trooper that I am, I persevere and make it to my car, climb in and sit there for about five minutes, until I recover enough to drive. I try to call my husband to tell him I'm on the way home (he's babysitting our little girl), but I can't move my mouth well enough to talk. Yeah, that numbing thing. I decide to just surprise him when I get home. I'm such a spontaneous girl. Go. Me. Rah. Rah.

And you know what? The prospect of spending the afternoon working on revisions suddenly looks really, really good to me.

It's all about perspective.

Stephanie Rowe
DATE ME, BABY, ONE MORE TIME, coming April 25th!, read an excerpt


Elizabeth Hoyt said...

Oh, man. You have my deepest sympathies, Stephanie, not just for the revisions from hell, but for the dental hygenist from hell. It's the cheerfully oblivious ones you gotta watch out for . . .

MaryF said...

Wow, I had to close my eyes while reading that! OUCH!

Nicole said...

Um...I'm going to go hug my dentist. If I feel the slightest pain, all I have to do is raise my hand and they stop everything and numb it all up again.

But yeah, a good book will make pain go away. Or at least lessen it.

Megan Crane said...

Oh my God. I have such a dental phobia. Eek.

Nienke said...

You should add that dentist scene into a new book. Make it a horror.
MY stomach was churning and I was sweating while I read it!

Diane Perkins said...

Take care of your teeth, Steph. You don't ever want a root canal....
(your book will be marvelous, you know)

Michelle said...

Have you read the dentist scene in A MILLION LITTLE PIECES? Yeesh. As if I wasn't afraid of the dentist enough already. However, that all turned out to be just fiction, right?

Thanks for sharing your trip to hell with us, Steph. And yes, a little perspective goes a long, long way.

Candy Halliday said...


I just couldn't resist jumping in here. I'm a writer by night, but by day I'm a - you guessed it - dental hygienist. I like to think I'm not an evil one, and prefer instead to be thought of as a "gentle hyenia" which is what my granddaughter (then age two) used to call me when prompted to tell someone what I did for a living.

Anhow, if it's any consolation, I too, am a complete basket case when it's my turn in the dental chair, as are most other dental professionals, I assure you.

Hope that little secret makes you feel a tad better. :)