Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Long Road


This summer my family took a vacation much different than our others. Rather than spending a week in a specific place, we drove. We put 3,600 miles on our car, 4,800 in an airplane, seeing parts of the country my kids have never seen. We wanted to see Yellowstone, we wanted to hit Mount Rushmore, but more than anything, we just wanted to see the west. With the wide skies, the red rocks, the gentle hills, the open roads with no one on them for miles -- this is all so different than where we live with our forests and traffic jams and slivers of sky.

"Look at that!" we had to keep saying, nudging our kids out of their books and games. We had to constantly remind them, this isn't a destination vacation: the journey's the thing.

It's something I am realizing is true of my novel, as well. I harbor a sense of shame that it's been in the works so long. Three of the last four years have been wrapped up in this book. I should be done. Those are the words that whisper in my ear constantly. Why so long?

It's so easy to think that writing THE END, the destination of every novel, is the point.

And then I wonder, why am I so desperate to get to the end? I have no deadline. I have no agent tapping her toe, no publisher checking the mail.

I've done this before. I know what is at the end.

The end.

That's what's at the end. No more characters. No more chasing them through dark pages. No more laying at night wondering how they are going to survive, if they'll be okay. No more living in their world.

Right now, I'm on their journey with them. I have one chance to do this. One chance to travel this road, have my heart break with theirs, feel joy with them, wonder what is at the end. Not just the end of the writing, but the end of them. One chance to have them to myself before sending them out.

I know what it feels like to have the characters who have become like family to me arrive at their happy place, to be done with me, maybe before I am done with them. It's a moment filled with pride, and then days on end of missing them.

I am on the journey. And if that takes a little longer than I thought it would, a little longer than anyone else thinks it should, I'm going to savor every minute.

13 comments:

  1. This is a really good attitude to have about it and I much admire your patience. I'm currently in a writing hiatus.

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    1. The last month or so has been an unintended hiatus. I wouldn't say I'm that patient with it, but I'm trying. It's really hard to feel like everyone is passing me on the road and I'm stuck off on the shoulder. I sure want the time, but I also will freely admit that family comes first, and as my oldest is eeking towards college, I'm realizing how little time I have left with them. There's only so much time in the day. There will be many years when they are gone and the house is empty to write all the stories bouncing around in my head. :)

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  2. Fantastic attitude. But I will admit - sobering thoughts. I just picked up my novel, as you know. Jumping back in - and right now it is invigorating to be back in that journey, as you said it so perfectly. But I know as an "author".... I am seeking that end. That completion. That "I wrote a novel. I stuck with it and finished it." and then share his story with others. But as a "writer".... a "facilitator"...his vessel.....I am seeking the thrill of the journey. I want to live it with him. And reaching the end would be the end of him and me....his pain would be healed.....his case would be solved....and then what? It's a crazy juxtaposition we live - and you capture it so well in this post.

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    1. There's definitely a flip side. We don't want to stay on the same project forever. We do need to be able to say, "I finished it!!' I really want that right now... sometimes overwhelmingly so. To just be done so I can say I have finally finished it. I did what I set out to do. Which is why I also have to remind myself to enjoy the journey. For you, I see Frank being in many books, so maybe this isn't the end of him or your journey with him. :)

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  3. It' s like we think we always have to be going somewhere, we seem so addicted to the destination that we forget the journey sometimes.

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  4. Hi Heidi. Here I am commenting on a blog (any blog) (what are blogs again?), which I don't think I have done for months. Anyway, I love the west. I went to school in Utah which is BEAUTIFUL. Did you see Utah? Also, thanks for the reminder. Right now I have Nelle and Mr. Snodgrass all to myself.

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    1. We spent two nights in Utah - one in Salt Lake City, which I wasn't that impressed with, and another in Provo, which I absolutely loved. I definitely could move there! Utah was probably the prettiest state I thought we drove through. :)

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  5. I grew up in western Nebraska where the skies are wide and spacious and you can see for miles and miles. I loved it. To this day, if I am in a place that has too many trees or mountains, I get very claustrophobic.

    Society (and the publishing world) always focuses so much on churning out stuff as fast as we can. It's unfortunate because I think it has saturated the market with a lot of books that aren't nearly as good as they could be. So I say take your time and enjoy the journey of writing this novel. When it's time for you to be done, you'll be done!

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    1. I spent a week in Nebraska when I was a teen, and I remember that feeling of the sky going on forever. I live in the middle of the woods, and grew up that way, so while I love that open sky, when I'm gone too long, I miss all our trees. :)

      I think you're right about churning out books too fast that might be much better if given a little time. I wonder if the pendulum will swing back, or if readers' insistence on quick books will win out.

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  6. This is how I look at writing. I love each journey with my characters but at some point the vacation ends and you go home only to get excited about that next one--(next book) Enjoy it but feel that joy too when you pull into your driveway and say the end and start plotting that next one!! :)

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    1. Yes! I'm trying to enjoy the journey, but I know I'll be thrilled to be able to close the book on this one. I'm learning to live in the moment I'm in, and not wish I were somewhere else. :)

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