The wait is almost over 🌸
We're entering a new season. It's time to grow.
In late December I finished the fourth draft of my novel-in-progress. And then, for the next two months, I didn’t write a single word of fiction.
Instead, I sent this newsletter and launched an advice column. I started my stitch-a-day project to the delight of my Instagram friends. I read some very good books, completed a very hard puzzle, and finally succumbed to Love Is Blind. I practiced yoga and took the dog on extra long walks. I did my best to let my brain rest, which is not an easy thing.
I’m a creature of habit (understatement of the century) and even though I wasn’t working on my novel, I still woke up early every morning and sat at my desk, cup of coffee in hand, laptop open as the sun slowly rose. It was tempting to barrel right into the next project, the next draft. I’d shown up—the hard part was over! But I wasn’t ready. Anyone can type a sentence; I needed to wait until I had something to say.
And then, a few days ago, the seed of a short story began rolling around in my head. I decided to plant it, to see if it would bloom.
I quickly learned that when it comes to short stories, eight years of novel writing has left me woefully out of practice. As I drafted, I could feel myself drifting back to the well-worn ideas in my book. A narrator who struggles with isolation and disappointment, an illicit affair with an authority figure. I was writing the same thing, just in miniature. Which is fine, I guess, except I wanted to say something new.
On the second pass, I took out the affair and made the relationship unrequited. Okay, I thought. That’s slightly better. Instead of asking, “What happens when we become too lonely?” I wondered, “What happens when we get too attached?” A minor twist, but it was enough. Now we’re getting somewhere. The story still isn’t good, but it has room to grow. The important thing is that I want to return to it, to see how it will end.
When it comes to art, I truly believe habits and routines are our greatest tools. But habits can keep us locked into old patterns; routines can make our work feel, well. Routine. Just because something worked for a season doesn’t mean you have to do it forever. After all, seasons change.
Earlier this week, while taking the dog on a very slow walk, I noticed the azaleas in my neighborhood were beginning to bud.
For most of the year, azaleas look like ordinary green bushes, nondescript, nothing special. But during that brief window when they’re in bloom, my city is transformed. The azaleas are shameless, hold nothing back. They’re loud flowers, large and colorful and a little bit obnoxious in their exuberance. The neighborhoods and parks are a riot of pinks and reds. We throw a literal festival to celebrate them. And then, almost as quickly as they arrive, they’re gone, and we move to the next flower.
Which is a long way of saying we’re at the end of one season, and at the beginning of another. Even if you sit at the same desk, drink from the same mug, watch dawn slip through the same window, something is changing. Something is different. Maybe you can’t tell what it is right away, but the moment you do? That’s it.
Can You Relate? Update
Thanks to everyone who tuned into the first installment of my advice column about writing, motivation, inspiration, and the zen of creating art. I’ve decided to make this a semi-regular feature, which I’ll send once a month as a bonus issue. If you don’t care about my advice (fair enough), you can unsubscribe from just that section. Questions will be accepted on a rolling basis—submit your’s here and I’ll add it to the queue! 💌
I’ve spent the last few days in New Jersey, visiting my beloved three and a half year old nephew (and my sisters, my mom, and my brother-in-law, all of whom fully realize they come second). In between endless games and activities and conversations, we’ve also shared many good meals. The best one was a breakfast order from a local bagel shop. I got an everything bagel with egg and cheese, he had an egg and cheese sammie, and he allowed me to photograph them before we ate. (A true toddler miracle.) 🥯
🎓 What Do You Do After the MFA?, Catapult
“[A]bout a year after graduating, when I settled into a new job and apartment, the writing came back. I constantly reconfigure my time: One month I touch the novel draft every day, in any small way; another I wake up early to write before work; another I draft only by hand.”
I graduated from the same MFA program as Rachel Ranie Taube, the author of this essay, though we did not overlap. Still, I found her experience extremely relatable and enjoyed this essay very much. I think you will, too.
📚 How a Book is Made, New York Times*
“There is still something miraculous about a book, about seeing it. It took me so long to find a publisher when I was starting out, you know. Just the fact of a printed book is something that I don’t think I’ll ever get over.”
This interactive article follows a novel from Word document to bound book, and I thought it was just beautiful. I think one of the reasons I want to publish a novel so much is because of its physicality—you’ve created something worth making real.
📈 How Covid Stole Our Time and How We Can Get It Back, New York Times*
“[T]he life we’ll be living 10 years from now will largely be determined not by our past selves but by our present and future selves. If we imagine what we might regret down the road, it’s very much in our hands to do something about it now.”
*NYT gift link—no subscription needed, and clicking won’t count toward your free articles!
Thank you to Lisa M. for the incredibly generous donation last week!
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