Early this week, I finished the latest draft of a new novel.
When I reached the end, after days and days (and days) of slow, plodding progress, I felt surprised.
It was like thinking you’ve got a couple of hours left to drive then spotting the sign marking the city limits. It was like waiting through an entire year of social distancing then feeling the needle slide into your arm (my mom gets her first shot today!)
There’s more work to be done, of course, but as I write this, in the dark, early hours, with an ice storm spitting against the bedroom window, my husband is downstairs reading it, and I can’t wait to hear what he thinks!
In the meantime, I am turning my mind to other things for a spell: poems that need revising, home renovations, a skein of yarn to dye with a lichen vat that’s been stewing since last August and, of course, preparations for the garden (why oh why are my cantaloupe seeds not sprouting?)
That moment of surprise upon finishing came because I had easily settled into what writing takes: getting easy in the saddle, as the grandmother of my main character, Ash, advises her at one point.
The daily showing up, for however much time is available – sometimes two hours, sometimes 20 minutes – enables me to move steadily, slowly, through the revision.
Some days the progress felt interminably slow, especially in the puzzling start of the third act which I did the best I could with, letting it be puzzling rather than stalling for months as I tried to force solutions. I’ve been at this game long enough that I know that the answer will come to me like a bolt of lightning, probably at 3 a.m. before I have to get up at 7 to teach a morning class.
Patience is a word I often mutter to myself. The zone of writing – revision especially – is not a speedy place for me (except, sometimes, in first drafts of new scenes that are right there on fire oh yeah!).
I don’t have to make an entire gourmet chicken dish in half an hour (yes, I’ve been watching too much reality TV).
One thing at a time is another mantra. That one I’ve passed on twice this week to other writers. It is so easy to spin off into overwhelm with plans to write an entire trilogy or an epic novel with a wide cast of characters you haven’t figured out how to juggle. But three books have to start with one book and one book has to start with a single sentence. Thus: one thing at a time.
This morning, my mind is flickering towards a few deadlines, sifting through the list of things I have to do today. But first, a second cup of coffee, a cuddle with the cat, a few deep breaths. Oh, look! We’re nearly there!