A quiet day, which is my usual observance of this holiday. We had dinner with my mentor, a simple meal of baked fish and potatoes and salad, with cherry pie for dessert. No over-eating, no football, and no shopping. We stood on the front balcony in the golden light and admired the unseasonably warm weather as the robin’s-egg-blue sky turned pink at the horizon and the empty street filled with blue shadow.
Sitting quiet with friends always brings up this deep sense of gratitude, where I count the blessings, and rapidly lose count: good health, so far; a job that isn’t sucking my soul; a marvelous, almost miraculous confluence of all the directions my reading and study has taken over the last thirty years. I was on the voyage out for decades, and now the ship is coming home, laden with treasure. I can feel the force of that in the confidence I feel now with writing.
A big piece of that confidence is the willingness to let the work breathe: not to push at full force all the time, but to work slowly and steadily. My goal this year was to turn into a real writer and a real editor, and so I have. The key to real longevity as a writer is to keep at it and to write as often and as steadily as one can manage. National Novel Writing Month is a wonderful, arbitrary challenge, and I enjoy the camaraderie of my fellow sportswomen and -men, but that’s the key: it’s a sport. It has arbitrary rules, and it is training for a certain variety of real life.
What it’s taught me: a manic joy in just banging out the prose, and not worrying about it. The writing mind (the hand in motion) often comes up with things darker and more enchanted than anything we could conjure by thinking about it.
Everything is a prompt. I might sketch some architecture for my plot, but the story will write itself, within or without, with or against that structure. I might amass huge amounts of preliminary material, but I still don’t think of myself as a planner. It’s only a matter of focusing the obsession. This year, it’s becoming clear that the scale of the novel is quite a bit larger than 30 days or however-many words. I don’t think I can pull off the sort of marathon that will finish it, so I have changed the deadline to 15 December rather than 30 November.
The ultimate secret: to take things as they come.