Sunday, October 3, 2010


–verb (used without object) swing or move to and fro, as a pendulum does. vary or vacillate between differing beliefs, opinions, conditions, etc.

One of the characteristics of writers is the tendency toward alighting on a project and then— finding that the muse is behaving in a rather coy manner— flitting toward the light of another idea. Okay, maybe it’s not the case for all scribes but it is admittedly true of this one.

For some of us, the path to where we are headed is simply not a straight one. There are detours due to protracted lengths of construction in which the road is literally— well, okay, figuratively— ripped up from beneath our tread and we’re forced to foray into blind alleys and dangerous neighborhoods. Dangerous because it is in these figurative neighborhoods that we run not only into new, potentially strange, characters but unfamiliar scenarios— street signs posted in different dialects ushering us into unexplored landscapes, perhaps even entirely different genres.

Many of the oscillations and false starts which a) take time and b) for a significant portion of one’s career do not produce revenue can sometimes feel like journeys for which an artist feels compelled to make an excuse— if not to in-laws; practically-minded siblings and dues-paying, white-collar comrades who drag their posteriors out of bed at ‘regular’ hours and can fill in the blank next to ‘occupation’ with something defensible then— perhaps more significantly— to the artist herself.

It’s a nasty business, this toiling without a road map. This shooting in the dark with reams of thousands of pages or USB drives with dozens of iterations of not one manuscript, but several. It’s difficult to explain why the stuff you wrote eighteen months ago is an embarrassment to you, now. And maybe more of a challenge is the attempt to elucidate on why you’d sooner serve up your eyeballs on a platter with a nice Béarnaise rather than place complete but mediocre material before an agent.

So just in case this is true of you, too, might I be permitted to relay that you’re not alone in enduring real or imagined sighs on the other end of the conversation when you explain why the break-out novel is still gestating within. That which is crafted to endure takes time. Which, despite the commonly-held wisdom of our frenzied age, it’s the one commodity we all have. So feel free to go back to the drawing board and lose your way, again. It seems blind trust is not only the province of children but— potentially— satisfactory execution.

Just don’t attempt the excursion without a fresh pot of mildly scalding coffee. And might I steal a final moment to extol the inarticulable virtues of finding Just The Right Mug to keep good company along the uncharted way. Until next time, dear reader.



  1. We are our worst judges, Dear Aurora, and yet we deserve a pat in the back just because we even attempted to write fiction, and for all the hours of toiling.

  2. That's funny that we were just talking about this today. Sometimes it's hard to let our imagination rest, but when we get going on the right track it suddenly starts to look like our flailing in the water is paying off. Or not. Every one of us deals with the frustration of our work and finding our way in a market that's ready to burst at the seams from all the work being submitted out there. My hope is that you gain some solid clarification on what track you'd like to be on next. From what you told me earlier, I think you just might have! Good luck with it!

  3. Thank you for your kind words, V. As for clarity, MM, yes. That is always nice. At any rate, full 'steam' ahead ... ;)

  4. Sister Aurora,

    I felt this way (and still do sometimes) after I finished all the revisions of my first novel, which as you know, took years to write. After there was nothing else to do with it other than send it out, I went through a period of a couple of months where I went back and forth (I couldn't decide if I wanted to write a "chick lit" story that had been on my mind (and computer files) for a while or the historical piece you're currently reading. Many times during this summer, I was tempted to drop the historical novel (or put it on "stand by") and start three other novels which were more inspiring at the time (but each of them a different genre!!) So I decided to stick with this one (I figured I was closer to finishing this one than any other, ha!) I think we've all been in the situation you describe, at one point or another, but as long as you keep writing, the muses will come your way.

  5. It must be the blogging, or that I earn my living through writing, but I am now tackling a period when I cannot write fiction


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