Saturday, June 27, 2015

How much joy can you stand?

I’m always excited to begin a new project. Usually the idea for another book has been hanging about
in the corner of my mind, fighting for attention, while I’m working on the final edits for a current project. The transition between stories can be disconcerting, though. The book I’ve handed off to my editor is full of people I know and love; folks I’ve worried over and listened to and encouraged from the first page to the last. I know how these characters talk and act. Now there’s a group of strangers in my head. I have no clear idea who they are. Still, I’m glad they’ve showed up, glad when I can set something about them down in writing: an opening scene, the gist of their trouble. After handing in CROOKEDLITTLE LIES, I did just that, began a story with a new family, a new dilemma, feeling confident I had something, that I’d forge ahead.

But very shortly into it, I hit a place where I felt I was writing in circles. The people in my head moved stiffly, like marionettes. They mumbled their lines or had nothing whatever to say. It got frustrating. I walked out on them many times. Some days I resisted even coming to sit at my desk. Why had I ever thought the idea was so great? But some interior knowing—my muse or guardian angel, the little voice in my head—kept me going through the fog and finally in the last week (now around 50 decent pages in out of the approximately 150 I’ve actually written) the book is taking off. The characters have come to life. They’re up and dancing and all I have to do is write down the steps. What a thrill. Once again, I understand why I’m doing this. When I reach this sweet spot, I couldn’t stop if I wanted to.
So here I am, closing in on the launch of CROOKED LITTLE LIES, while in the meanwhile, I have this compelling new story to engage my imagination and keep me occupied. It’s a good place to be, the best. And as I write this blog post, two things occur to me: one is that persistence does pay off. The second thing is that very often persisting can feel dumb … like the dumbest thing going. And here’s something else. It actually might be dumb to continue a project that isn’t working. Or it might turn out to be a brilliant move. The trick lies in knowing the difference and that’s not always easy.   

But it’s so gratifying when the persistence does pay off, when the view clears and you can see where you’re going. And this time, when the new story gelled, I got up from my desk, thinking how lucky I am to be doing work that I love, thinking, can it get better? I feel such a wave of gratitude for all the readers of my books, and of books in general. They make my work, that is such a source of joy in my life, possible. I’m so grateful, too, to Barbara Poelle, my agent, and to Tara Parsons, my editor, and to the whole Lake Union team, Gabe and Dennelle, and everyone else there, for their faith, enthusiasm and support. Working with them has brought more joy.

I’m reminded of a little book I read years ago while passing through one of the darkest nights of my life. It’s by Suzanne Falter-Barns and it’s titled, HOW MUCH JOY CAN YOU STAND? The question is one I ask myself from time to time, still. How much joy can I stand? I don’t know yet. Let me see once this next novel comes into the world. Let me see after I finish the new one I’m working on. Meanwhile, thank you! Thank you so much!

No comments:

Post a Comment