Posted by: jeannineatkins | October 18, 2010

In Between

Last week Peter and I enjoyed a few days on Cape Cod. We bicycled through the dunes near Provincetown, seeing lots of sand, sea grasses, scrub spruce and the occasional breath-taking glimpse of sea. We climbed Pilgrim Tower, which gives a great view over the peninsula. The next day we welcomed flatter grounds to bike on in Harwich and Barnstable, past cranberry bogs and woods. We walked by the ocean in Monomoy wildlife refuge, where we sadly didn’t see seals, but happily didn’t get caught in the tide.

And I wrote a little. Taking baby steps into a new book, while looking over my laptop to the ocean, was a great way to celebrate finishing, (or what I like to call finishing, though I know there’s more work ahead), one manuscript and moving into another. Starting a new place to call home.

Of course this home isn’t entirely new. Once again, I’m tearing apart an old novel to find the poetry within, though now I’m working from a manuscript that spent about ten years in a drawer, so the demolition part is fairly painless. I have a deep connection to the story, but when I put the manuscript away I understood the work hadn’t yet found its right form. Many pages feel flat. A few offer gems. Here’s a house with a frame that can be used.

Now let the sledge hammers swing, even while I keep an eye out for strong pine planks under the dust, corners that look inviting, maybe an amazing beyond belief fireplace that can restored. After a lot of fuss, peering ever so carefully at my last work, I enjoy straightening my back and walking straight ahead into mistakes, striding right on by, although I occasionally bend to mend and tidy.

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Responses

  1. I love the metaphor of a rough draft as a “house with a frame that can be used.” Happy writing as you work on your new project! May you feel joy in the experience.

  2. Your sweet message arrived at just the right time. Wishing joy in your writing to you, too!

  3. “I’m tearing apart an old novel to find the poetry within…”
    I love this.

  4. Thanks, Jeannine. (and you know how I love to say that!)

  5. Happy housewarming, Jeannine! I’m betting there’s a fabulous fireplace in there just waiting to be discovered. And that you’ll build even more amazing ones as you go.

  6. If I began each new book as lyrically as you do, each word on the page would be a pearl. However, my new projects are riddled with uncertainty and self-loathing and those first words are generally clinkers.

  7. I love your faith, Amy. Thank you! And best wishes for your work sweeping and hammering.

  8. Oh, Candice. I begin with page after page of clinkers and think that’s how it’s supposed to be. Self-loathing though: don’t like that. We’re here on earth to marvel over pearls, even when we can’t reach them, and candy corn cake, even when we’ve never tasted it, and such, yes?

  9. I guess I don’t really hate myself–just hate the fact that every book, no matter how many I write, I have to learn the same lessons over and over. New ones, too. I have approach/avoidance conflict with new work until I’m so deep into it I don’t care about anything else. But that takes a long while.

  10. I’ll be watching your journey closely. My next project (after the adult novel is finished enough to go to the “cooling off” pantry) is a MG novel that hadn’t found its voice a dozen years ago when I struggled it through two failed drafts. I mentioned to you once that I was thinking about trying it in verse. So your words about tearing apart the manuscript to find the poetry within resonate with me. Wish you well with your new project!

  11. I meant “wrestled,” not “struggled.”

  12. It’s hard, no getting around it. And sometimes obsession has to take the place of sweeter ways to connect with something.
    If it’s consolation, Eudora Welty said the same thing: that she had to learn to write all over again with each new book.

  13. Like your cooling off pantry, Toby! Good idea.
    And I’ll bring my eyes back to you. There’s certainly something to be said for changing genres. I think what’s true and essential should find a way to stay, and the fluff and flotsam float off. Well, that’s the gamble and hope, and you know we’re all hopers and gamblers here!


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