It’s been a couple of weeks since I posted anything, and I must say, I’m only a teensy weensy bit sorry. Because I have been working. On my book. Like a disciplined and matured writer. Except I have been using better grammar.
I have been meeting most of my daily goals, though not my weekly ones, which leaves me in a kind of a confused limbo. Checking off my lists is never satisfying to me with a ghost box left empty, unchecked, but still, I’m about four chapters away from my Hemingway draft.
(I have decided to call all of my first drafts Hemingway drafts. In case you don’t know, Hemingway once stated, eloquently, that the first draft of anything is sh*t. This way, I am acknowledging the crappy state of my draft while still managing to sound educated, and literary.)
Math has been both my educator and my enemy in this final stretch. I have two sides of me, one that knows and is really okay with the flexible nature of constructing a story and following where it leads. The other side of me is a very stringent rule follower that is entirely unsure if it is okay to count my writing as done for the day if I finished a scene (logical goal) but missed my word count by 204 words.
Doing the math, committing to a chapter a week, I should finish by the end of April. Typing that makes me a little dizzy. I know the work will not be over at that point. But, finished? No matter how crappy a first draft is, when it is done I can call it done. And I can run a bubble bath and have a glass of wine and read some Billy Collins, whose poetry is everything I love about language and writing and living. Then I can get up the next day, and get back to work, maybe on something new, maybe just for a day.
I am already itching to get back to chapter one, where I skimmed and skated and left questions hanging and hovering in the air, questions that I now know the answers to, questions I have to keep myself from going back and answering, adding, poking and prodding. I am already excited about the editing, the way one might get excited over dessert, even while the meal is fantastic, the steak tender and just right shade of pink. It’s just that what you think will go really well with the steak is a slice of cheesecake, at once delicate and rich.
A better way to describe how this process has been for me is to tell you a short story about a disappointing water slide.
When Sean was in the military, we would often frequent the base pool. It had a single water slide. It was a discriminating water slide, though. It worked for my husband, but not for me. No matter what I tried, or how I sat, or what I wore, that stupid slide had me scooching, on my bumper, in front of God and half a military base, all the way down the slide. It squeaked as I did this. I got stuck. I could have sat there all day if I was expected to go down the slide without a serious effort on my part.
I would watch others go down.
Those show offs would smile and holler and splash.
Because I am a problem solver, I would observe how they went down, how they pushed off at the start, what kind of suit they were wearing– maybe board shorts were giving my husband some kind of edge. Were they laying down, or sitting up?
I would try again.
Scooch. Scooch. Scooch.
My only real fear, besides slide-burn, was that four-thirty would come and I would be stuck on the slide, scooching, when the national anthem was played. This happens every day on bases, and when it does, you are expected to pull your car over if you are driving, and, if you are outside, to face the general direction of the base flag, and stand with your hand over your heart until the song is completed.
Awkward though this is while in a bathing suit, water dripping off of you, what exactly could one do if they were stuck on that blasted water slide? These are military families, people who sacrifice daily for the country, who have faced death and worse to the tune of that anthem playing. The children all know just what to do. It is a moment when all things hush except for the playing of this song.
And there I could be, watching the reverence, appreciating the hush, and…
Followed by the pitiful splash of a body sliding sheepishly into the water just as the song reaches crescendo.
That is how writing this book has been.
I have watched others, studied how easy it seems to be for them, the daily commitment, the grinding out of a story. For Pete’s sake, they even seem to be enjoying themselves.
I have tried their methods.
My clumsy pursuit has been a little embarrassing.
Recently we went to an indoor water park. I didn’t have any problem with those slides. They were bigger than the Scooching Slide of the North, required tubes to glide down them. I laughed all the way down, each time, and each time was surprised and saddened when I would bank the corner that showed me that the end was coming soon.
The success of those slides didn’t keep me from climbing the stairs to ride again, any more than the failure of that stupid slide kept me from trying again so many summers ago.
And that’s what I have figured out through the writing of this book. Nothing’s going to keep me from it. Not good days, not bad. Not slow days, and not easy ones, even though they can make the slow days that much more infuriating.
Scooching or sliding, I’ll be at it.