Somebody on Facebook said that there are robins in Toronto.


This is the time of year that totally screws me up.

Edging s.l.ow.l.y out of winter down south when up here, the snow has yet to start slumping and this morning it was forty below with the windchill.

Should I stop?

But the weather is such a good conversation starter…

What I really want to write about this afternoon is how this morning I finally read through the second section, first draft, of my new novel and found it not so bad.


A lot of this is because I took my time with this one, allowing the details in, painting the world while I went.

That wasn’t the way things were with Swarm.

I think it was nerves that made me rush, trying to get the details of action and plot down quickly, thinking I could go back and fill in the landscape, the setting, those delicate moments of body language and what the forest looks like and a character memory that feels dangerous, like pushing a tack against the rubber skin of a balloon.

I did go back, again and again and again, with Swarm, but now that I’ve s-l-o-w-e-d down, I know I’ve stopped writing so speedily. It isn’t a race. Such a huge part of the joy of writing for me is indulging in detail, describing the world, and making it spring to life in surprising image and metaphor.

And suddenly, while you’re doing all that, the truth sneaks out.

I always go back to something Michael Winter said during our fiction workshop when I was in grad school: “I want to talk about the meaning of life, but I’m stuck describing the jam jars.”

Somewhere along the way I realized that in the jam jars is the meaning…

He says something else about the physicality of writing here: “It’s a whole series of whittlings and gluing-on of bits and sanding and varnishing.”

And while I realize that in this sentence he’s referring to structure, paragraphs, sentences, snip out that detail and add in the other, it still strikes me how the words and what the words reflect are all so physical.

Because good writing is not abstract. It’s specific and detailed.

Because that’s how we live in our day-to-day, entangled in the material of meaning.

I started out that way in this very post and I’ll end the same way.

Today, the sky was so blue it throbbed; the wind finally still.

My weight broke through the crusted snow, and I found myself stuck all the way up to my knees.

Join me next week for the Firelight Interview Series with Stacey Madden, author of Poison Shy

Photo by deadmanjones