Some lines by Gary Snyder that I can’t find on a quick skim of my poetry bookshelves, so this may not be quite accurate:
“When creeks are full / poems flow / when creeks are dry/ we heap stones.”
There are times when the book in progress is like a trout leaping and flashing through a spray of cold water in a peaty burn, something so very much alive that I’m typing as fast as I can just to keep up with the scenes and dialogue flashing through my mind, and that’s glorious.
And there are other times when I feel as though the trout has disappeared, and to find it again I’m going to have to dam that Highland burn, one stone at a time.
One paragraph at a time.
One sentence at a time.
Okay, if necessary, one word at a bloody time!
Two things sustain me through spells like this:
One, I know from past experience that when this book is finished and I’m editing the manuscript, I will not be able to tell the passages that I wrote in a mood of high exaltation from those that I plodded through as I’m plodding today. Neither the glory nor the blood comes through onto the page.
And two, as a math major, I know that 500 words plus 500 words plus 500 words plus 500 words adds up to 2000 words. You learn that kind of sophisticated numerical reasoning in four years of … well, okay, the exact relationship to general topology isn’t exactly obvious, but trust me, the math works. Even if it gets down to 500 words per day, or even less, I’ll still get there eventually. (And nobody mention Zeno’s tortoise, or we’ll have to have a very serious talk about convergent series, capisce?)
It may be more fun to get those 2000 words in one glorious dash rather than in four glumly resentful, earth-bound sessions of refusing to get up from the computer until the timer sets me free, but the book doesn’t care. The book wants me to get to the end of the damned story and doesn’t care how much I whine and protest along the way. And today, it also wants me to figure out why the Wicked Widow would turn Lord Kinross into a swan. Sure, she blames him for her misfortunes, but by the close of the book she blames just about everybody on the face of the earth for her problems; why does she target him in particular? Maybe she doesn’t, it whispers, and then where’s your dramatic climax?
The water’s cold today, and the stones seem uncommonly heavy. But I’m heaping them up anyway.
And, not to beg or anything, but as I plod along here, let me just casually mention that a review of one of the books I’ve already finished would be extremely inspiring and might help me stay out of the Halloween candy.