Sunday, October 3, 2010
–verb (used without object)
1.to swing or move to and fro, as a pendulum does.
2.to 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.