Ryan put his red pen down on the stack of papers on his desk and looked at the grandfather clock in the corner. "Half past three and you're all ready to quit aren't you?" he asked himself with an air of mockery. "These books aren't going to edit themselves you know."
He did, in fact, know this to be a true statement. For three endless years, he himself had attempted to write a novel which he, at that time, believed would change the scope of American literature forever. In those three years of attempting to etch his name alongside Steinbeck and Hemingway, he nearly lost his grip on reality entirely. The stress and pressure associated with trying to pull together all the loose ends of his story nearly left him completely unhinged. When he finally gave up on attempting any further polishing of his prose and sent the completed manuscript to an editor, he found out just how terribly far from the great American novel he had landed. Instead of great, he was merely unpublishable.
This began the long and arduous process of attempting to resuscitate what would have been better left for dead. This attempt to breathe life into his manuscript lasted three and a half months, during which time he became more and more fascinated with the little red marks all over the pages of his would be masterpiece. Had there been fewer of them, he might have simply taken their direction and moved on with the rewriting. However, the exorbitant proliferation, the veritable sea of red swimming on every page, became more and more captivating as he made his way through the novel. Ryan began to see his writing in a whole new light. He began to clearly see the problems inherent in his writing, and even began to discern the solutions to those problems. Had his material been remotely worth saving, this newfound knowledge might have indeed been the beginning of his ascendency to literary greatness. As it was, he instead found his new calling.
Ryan had spent the last six years of his life becoming one of the most sought after editors in the business. He had edited fourteen New York Times best sellers and a great many more books that had turned a tidy profit for several major publishing houses. He had reached that wonderful point in his professional career where he could afford to be selective about what work he chose to edit. He had reached the pinnacle, and it was everything he could have hoped for it to be.
Then the headaches had begun.
They were small at first, just a nagging pain behind his eyes, and he initially thought that he might just need a new pair of glasses. He then proceeded to place the blame on the glare on his computer screen. Eventually, he came to a point where he would start feeling his head throb the second he flipped on his computer monitor in the morning and he started to wonder if he had a brain tumor or something along those lines. His doctor couldn't find anything wrong with him, and neither could any one else in the long string of specialists he went to see. His head was scanned and scrutinized from every possible angle, always with the same results. No one could find anything physically wrong with him.
The headaches continued to worsen over the subsequent months, and when they finally reached the point that he could no longer work at all, he concluded that it was time to take drastic action. He decided he had no other recourse remaining but to follow up on the one and only recommendation made by one of the specialists which he had not yet pursued.
Ryan went to see a psychiatrist.
He visited the psychiatrist once a week for three months, during which time he continued to be unable to work on his computer. In fact, he had stopped even going into his study at all, as the very sight of the monitor on the desk caused him to begin feeling the prickling sensation behind his eyes that always foreshadowed the coming of a monstrous headache.
Dr. Copeland, the aforementioned psychiatrist, eventually made a recommendation that would change Ryan's life forever. He recommended that Ryan try an experiment to see if it would help alleviate his symptoms. He suggested that Ryan leave the city for an afternoon and take a printed copy of a manuscript with him. He was to leave his cell phone and laptop at home, drive well outside the city limits to a park the doctor told him about, and take the manuscript and a red pen with him.
Ryan followed the directions exactly, and the results were truly extraordinary. It was only when it began to grow so dark he could not make out the words on the page that he looked up and realized how much time had passed while he had been sitting at a picnic table, happily editing away without the faintest trace of a headache.
The decision was one of the easiest Ryan had ever made. He took his entire savings and bought a house in the country. He allowed a realtor to do most of the work, with the explicit instructions that he was looking for a house the furthest from any city as could be found, but it had to be one that still had electricity and plumbing. He cancelled his cell phone plan, threw out his computer and television, packed his remaining possessions, and left the city with no plan to ever return.
That was all now six months in the past and, other than the occasional dog interrupted sleepless night, Ryan had found the country life immensely to his liking. He had worked steadily the entire time and seldom missed any of the conveniences he had left behind. He had not felt even the faintest symptoms of a headache since he began his new life, and he was excited to see what the world outside his windows would look like when winter came. He imagined it would be much more picturesque than the dirty slush he was used to seeing outside his apartment in winter time.
Ryan was perhaps a bit lonely, but he had made his peace with that a long time ago. At least in the country he could pretend that the reason he was lonely was because no one else was around. He found this to be far preferable to the loneliness a person could feel in a crowded city.