One of the reasons I started this blog was to find and foster community among my fellow mother-writers, and I’ve already found a lovely one in Maddy over at Writing Bubble. She invited me to join her weekly link up that she co-hosts with Chrissie over at Muddled Manuscript (oh, I love that name) called, “What I’m Writing,” which of course I can’t resist.
This week I’ve spent much of my (minimal) writing time polishing up the rusty bits of a blog post and formatting my very first newsletter (!) that I will be sending out shortly. I really enjoyed writing the newsletter, but felt a bit guilty that I wasn’t working on the novel.
Oh, the novel! It’s like my albatross, but a very special and beloved albatross that I tend to with absolute devotion despite its overwhelming weight and refusal to budge off my neck.
But I will say, I’ve made progress on it this year. Last January I dusted off my woefully neglected albatross, I mean, manuscript – one that sat in a safe (literally, a safe!) for five years. I had finished it just two days before giving birth to my daughter…who is now six and a half. Do the math if you must. It’s not pretty.
One day while my daughter was in kindergarten and my son with his sitter, I read the whole thing, from start to finish. I don’t know what I expected, certainly not perfection or genius (I’m not that deluded), but I also didn’t think it would be total garbage (though parts came close). When I finally put the pages down I felt a strange sense of relief. I knew what I had to do. Start again.
I salvaged what I could, about sixty pages, and then cut the rest of it. There is still a file on my computer with 200+ pages that should for all intents and purposes be deleted but I can’t bear to do so, yet. Since then I’ve written many, many more pages, some of which have made the cut while many more have not.
You have to be ruthless as a writer, but you also have to hold onto a certain naiveté or willful ignorance. Dani Shapiro says it well in her book, Still Writing:
“So how do we make peace with the knowledge that every word, every sentence we write may very well hit the cutting room floor? Well, we don’t make peace with this knowledge. We willfully disregard it.”
That’s what I’m doing as I work on my novel. Some days the task feels so monumental, so overwhelming, it’s like chipping away at a glacier with a toothpick.
But I keep on going, not knowing what will be saved or cut, not knowing if this latest draft will be good enough to merit an edit, and then, after that, if it will ever be read by eyes other than my own.
I’m writing in the dark, slow and steady like the tortoise because my kids are young and underfoot, and that’s how it has to be, for now.
But I sense with a kind of animal instinct, or maybe just a writerly one, that I’m approaching something with my novel. There is a quickening, a slight uptake in the beating of my heart. I feel as though I’m on a roller coaster, ratcheting up the tracks. Before all I could hear was the steady clacking sound, but now I can see something too, a glimmering in the distance. I am getting closer to the top. Closer than I have been. If I keep going I will finish. And that is my goal.
What are you working on? Are you chipping away a sliver at a time or are you making great gouges?