Now that it’s just us girls, I’ll make like this is a sleepover and spill my guts. I’m two days out from turning Unbounded over to my editor (“over” and “out” both in that sentence). I’m exhausted. I’m dreaming words, scratch marks, corrections. I’ve learned so much, even in this last edit, about what it takes to produce a book at this level. Suffice it to say that it ain’t easy.
But that’s not why I’m crying.
I’m crying because something magical happened this past weekend. A truth about the story emerged, a puzzle piece clicked into place–an unknown fact about a very dear character that’s not only so poignant that it made me cry, but that clarifies another significant event and an abstract concept. I know that’s vague. It’s the best I can do right now. But what has me sobbing in my tea over this is that it’s such a gift. Writing, I mean. Because, for me, these moments are the king of rewards. Not money. Not contracts. Not pleasing other people. These moments are IT. The reason I do this.
It’s so wonderful to be reminded now, in the 11th and 11/12th hour, about that fact. Because when I’m this tired and worn and desperate for a break, this is the very best fuel. I certainly wasn’t looking for ideas, twists for my plot. I’ve been polishing and cutting an overly plump ms. That’s it–head’s down polishing and cutting. Yet, there it was.
I wonder, sometimes, where these gems come from. I have very little desire to claim these “ideas” as mine, because they truly don’t seem to have come from anything within my conscious mind–or even my subconscious or unconscious minds. Rather, they seem to come from someplace outside of me. Like there’s a group of dead writers looking over my shoulder, whispering ideas in my ear at their own pace. Maybe they test their ideas out on me. Did our warm little writer girl cry? Good. Job well done.
Maybe writing is like crayon rubbings. Do you remember those? Stick something textured beneath a piece of paper, then use the flat side of a crayon to reveal its many intricacies. Rub hard enough and long enough and over the entire paper, and you’ll see a very clear likeness of whatever lies beneath. Maybe that’s what happened this past weekend; I found a section I hadn’t rubbed out yet and revealed something that pulled the whole together in a new way. What a surprise.
Or maybe writing is like sculpting. I’ve heard this comparison before. How many shapes can emerge from a cube of marble? A numberless amount. More than enough stories to go around. Take big amorphous chunk of marble and chisel away at it to reveal the crude form that was in there, waiting for you all along. Chisel and chip, chisel and chip, and beautiful details may be revealed. Maybe you surprise yourself. I wonder if Bernini, when he sculpted this statue of Pluto and Persephone, knew that Pluto’s fingers would look so real against her flesh? That he’d be able to see the veins on Pluto’s hands? That others would one day look at his work and wonder if those aren’t two real people, frozen somehow, not marble at all? Regardless, those details have made this particular Roman statue one of the most hailed and well-studied in the entire world.
Okay, tears dried, and my manuscript awaits. Next time you hear from me it will be to say that–after six years–this particular writing journey is over.
I may be crying again.
Why do you write?