Years ago when I first started writing, my husband and I used to joke that people never pictured the writing life the way it actually was.

“They think we’re eating bonbons all the time,” I grumbled.

“Well, you ought to eat them sometimes,” my husband said.

We decided that whenever I finished a book draft, it ought to be bonbon week, complete with boxes of chocolates and visits with friends and other yummy things.

A delightful idea, but in practice it has never worked. I have either gotten sick (sometimes very, very sick), or I have found myself in the midst of some household crisis, or some other wrench has been thrown in the works, and by the time everything is sorted out the impulse for bonbons is long gone. And truth to tell, when I finish a book, I don’t always feel like celebrating. Sometimes all I can see is where I’ve failed. Other times, I miss working on the book so much that it feels like I’m in mourning.

So bonbon week has become something of a longstanding joke around here, a mere figure of speech about the way a writer’s life should be (but isn’t).

But not this time. This time I was ready to celebrate. A much-loved friend called within an hour of my finishing and we had a lovely talk. My husband waltzed around the room with me when he got home. And believe it or not, even the bonbons arrived, like manna from the heavens: On Monday, I found a box of chocolates on my doorstep, with a note of congratulations from a dear writer friend.

I cried.

It’s only a first draft. I know that. But this is the first time I’ve finished a first draft after nearly dying in the middle of it.

To be here, alive, is the best part. To be here with a first draft done, and with dear people in my life to celebrate it with — that’s the icing on the bonbon.