Sunday, June 2, 2024

Driving in the Fog at Night

The writer E.L. Doctorow once said, “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” 

I like that and try to hold onto it, especially lately, when writing has been all fog for me and the headlights are barely flickering. I have good excuses. My normal schedule is off. Trips out of town, and then, a guest staying in the house. I’m tired and random joints hurt. I think it’s the medication I’m taking. That, or I’m old. Also, there’s a rabbit in the garden who’s eating my plants. 

But the real problem is I’m at a place in my book where I’m at a crossroads. Something’s got to happen but I don’t know what. My main character has to make a decision, but for some reason, she’s spinning her wheels. Do this? or Do that? Or maybe do some other thing? Who knows. 

You should see this rabbit, how enormous he is, hopping across my yard after feasting on my garden, which he apparently sees as his personal salad bar. I spend several days with him in a battle of wits. I put fencing up, but the fencing is worthless. He can hop right over it. I try covering each seedling with its own little mesh cage, but he eats the tips off of everything, down to the mesh. 

Meanwhile, in my book I tread water in the same paragraph for days, moving sentences around like I’m the guy in The Plague by Camus. That guy kept rewriting the same sentence over and over again and reading it to his friends, who probably thought he was nuts. They were IN THE MIDDLE OF A PLAGUE. Why was he wasting his time writing a book? 

I head to the garden center and buy a bigger fence. It’s metal and comes in a roll. You have to unwind it and nail it to wooden stakes. It’s a big pain in the neck to set up, but when it’s done, it’s a fortress. I actually feel bad for the rabbit now, his usual food supply out of reach. I plant new plants to replace the ones bitten down to nothing. I leave one outside the perimeter of the fence because I want to be the type of person who can make peace with a rabbit.  

The character in my book is still frozen, teetering on the edge of something. I push her one way and it doesn’t work. I push her in the opposite direction and that doesn’t work either. I fix my broken headlights. I drive on through the fog. 

Confession: I love the guy in The Plague, how silly he is and how hopeful. Maybe he is never going to finish his book. Maybe he is going to catch the plague. If he doesn’t catch the plague, he is going to die eventually anyway. So what. I like how he keeps fiddling with his words. I like how he shares his story with his friends.


a peace offering

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