Posted by: jeannineatkins | October 17, 2012

The Silence In Between

I spent part of this morning moving some books from piles to shelves, while some were bagged for the next library book sale. But the aloe is still leaning over under the weight of its thick, prickly self, waiting to be repotted. The garden is still waiting for me to appear with clippers and rake. I won’t mention housework. After finishing my novel, I did tend to some chores, but I’m trying to make myself available to the muse, too. And she likes to find me on the window seat, looking unproductive.

There’s a silence before a new work comes that can feel prickly, no matter how I longed for it was while hunching over a hefty stack of pages. There’s been a goal in mind, a sense of how I want this big thing to look. Now my novel has reached that state. Peter has almost finished kindly combing it for errant letters, missing articles, apostrophes doled out too randomly, the occasional if that should be it, or she’s that need a name. He’s put gentle question marks beside too flighty poetic flights. He makes me smile with his sweet manners on my pages: It might be more clear if you had a verb in that sentence. Um, yes. And I’m glad for his occasional praise. “This may be the best description of a color I ever read.” Yay! Anyway, I think we’ll have finished tidying by tomorrow, when I expect the drama of hitting Send. And already I’ve set blank paper before me, which needs to get filled one page at a time.

Empty paper can bring up panic, which I’m trying to ride out with deep breaths, when I’m tending to shallow ones, and a still bottom, when I feel wiggly. The aloe and dried plants can wait just a little longer, while I mull my way to and through false starts, dead ends, ideas not quite interesting enough.  I’ve written a lot of notes about a girl and a place and their particular powers, but I’ve kept myself from opening that file. And my stillness (well, a few more books were re-shelfed) is paying off a bit. I’m catching a few birds that may or may not be important. An older sister. An aunt. Rocks and a clay-bottomed river. These are enough to begin with. I scribble around them, as if they might mean something.

Time will tell, so that’s what I’m trying to give the process. Saying no to the new yarn, the ever-so-attractive unread books, the sack of flour and cranberries, the spade. I’ll get to them, but for now, I’m trying to be as quiet as the paper and the patient, sprawl of roses that I promise to cut back before winter.



  1. I know you’ll find this funny (and I am showing my newness to writing by saying this) but you make the whole process sound so romantic!

    Let’s just say you make me want to do it too. I am struggling with something I rarely struggle with – connecting the dots. The mystery for my project only grows deeper the more I read. The person whose voice I long to hear grows softer rather than louder and I strain to hear her. I love her but I can’t hear her. I want so badly to meet her in my mind and crawl inside her heart and mind but I can’t figure out how to connect the dots to make that happen.

    And the funny thing is, even as I write this comment I know what the answer is. I need to sit down and let the pen flow. And I mean pen. Not computer where it’s too easy to edit. The PEN has to flow.

    I just came from a lovely lunchtime walk where I collected pretty leaves to press and send to my son in NYC who still hasn’t found a job and needs some cheering up. My person loves the outdoors, loves berries and flowers and leaves. And I feel like I need to crawl into a pile of leaves with my notebook and let the pen flow.

    This is why I love your blog. 🙂

    • Oh, Susan. What a sweet note. It’s really all so hard. I hope I don’t seem to gloss over that, though I take heart from your saying that my words help you want to keep going. What a poignant line about how the mystery grows deeper for you as you read. I’ve been there, others have been there, and I do believe that that’s a sign that you are following the right meandering and difficult roads. The most important mysteries may take the longest times to unravel or decipher. I hope you find some good leaves to crawl into.

  2. Lovely post, Jeannine. And you are right to wait – the words will come.

  3. I am still hip-deep in the muddy revision waters, Jeannine, so this is a salutary reminder that it isn’t all beach chairs and bonbons on the other side. Though I kind of wish it were. I admire your patience and stillness.

    • It’s interesting how we can convince ourselves of beach chairs and bonbons on the other side, no matter how many times we’ve thrown off the hip boots to come out of muddy waters. Not a bad thing, our little fantasies! So, yes, Amy, never mind what I said: it’s hot cups of teas and scones while the muse will show up promptly at ten a.m. tomorrow.

  4. Your response to a comment by Amy Butler Greenfield on your previous post ended with a statement about the calmness of a long allegiance to craft. You pick it up again in this post, you exemplify it – so beautifully!

    • Of course I was referring to Florence Hosmer, but you are very sweet, Sarah. I really do this for more than the process, but I suppose it’s good to think that there is something there, regardless of what happens after the send button is pushed.

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