Sunday, September 12, 2021

The book I'm writing is going off the rails

There's a lesson in here about Things Not Going in the Direction You Planned, and how That's Okay, because you're Trusting the Process, and in the end, you'll get a Messy Crappy First Draft, but even if it's messy and crappy, You'll Still Have Something To Work With. 

But I'm a big liar when I say these things. 

What I really want when I write a book is to know where it's going right from the start. Write my words each day and watch the story unfold exactly how I planned it. Make it to the end easily, and all that's left to do is a quick spellcheck before sending it off. 

It never happens this way so I don't know why I'm surprised.

I needed this one to work that way though. The words I write each day feel like the only thing I can control, so when they go off in some weirdo direction I didn't see coming, now what am I supposed to do? 

What I did was I went outside and cut the ivy that was climbing up the house and then I went into the backyard and yanked out weeds. It was a gorgeous day in Columbus Ohio and it was September 11, and I couldn't help thinking about twenty years ago and how gorgeous that day had been at the start of it, driving with my four-year-old daughter to her preschool at 8:45 in the morning, and how later, when I picked her up at noon, all of the moms were standing in an awkward circle, no one chatting with each other how we usually did. 

We swayed awkwardly and looked everywhere but into each other's faces. No phones then, or I'm sure we all would've been pressed to them. Not that it would've been good to have phones, but at least there would have been an excuse for the excruciating silence, the stark and terrifying together-but-aloneness feeling we all were feeling. 

What I was thinking while I weeded the garden was, what if I had reached for the hand of the mom next to me and then she had reached for the hand of the person next to her and we stood in our circle, holding hands, instead of swaying there so painfully alone?

Why did it take me twenty years to think of this idea? I went for a walk. 

And that's when it hit me that maybe my book is not as messed up as I thought. I mean, the world in it is relatively stable and still a place I'd like to visit. The people, the kind of people I like knowing. And when someone wonders if she should reach out and hold another person's hand, I truly believe, this time, she will. 

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