I had had high hopes for this summer–was going to revise my entire novel in concerted focused effort, but I didn’t do that. In fact, I didn’t do anything I’d set out to do. On one level, I feel like a failure (to my own ambition)–on another level, I have to trust this as part of my writing process. Perhaps I just needed to rest and explore instead of carve a direct path to the destination.
One of my writing mentors this summer raised his eyebrow in surprise when I said I wanted to begin revision on a manuscript I’d completed 7 months previous.
“But that’s novel time!” he said. As in, too soon too soon–as in, 7 months isn’t anything in the scope of a novel writing timeline.
I brushed his commentary off. I wanted to start revision, dammit! And quite a few of my friends (on deadlines with agents and editors) began revision after finishing their first drafts, in a rapid progression akin to a car pulling a U-turn after missing a turn off. I wanted to do the same.
But that wasn’t going to happen.
Like the volunteer squash in my garden, my summer has been about unexpected surprises that have derailed me, but not without lessons learned. I got hit by a car (it feels like an out of body experience, flying through the air after impact) at the very beginning of summer, and somehow I feel like the psychological and physical impact of that very act swatted me off one set of rails onto another.
There are plans, and there is life. As I wrote the first draft of my novel, I had plans, and then there were my characters’ lives; so many times their needs dictated the course of the novel, and I found myself surprised and delighted at unexpected twists and turns. The book is better for all the off-roading.
And my very slow revision process? Despite my initial desire to revise like a banshee, this slow return to my novel–well, it’s had me falling in love with it again as I savor passages and mull over scenes and chapters that need more character development, more work on the prose, dialogue rewriting. I’m learning about myself as I navigate this new territory called novel revision. It is very very hard work, but I am beginning to make progress, and that progress is so gratifying.
That mystery volunteer squash is coming into its own; I watch it with great intrigue as it swells and then pales. What is it? It looks more and more like a potential spaghetti squash (looks like my faithful reader Nate’s guess might be the correct one!), but it also looks like so many other kinds of squash, still.
Like that squash, I’m not sure where I’m going and where I’ll end up.
Now I am readying myself for Fall. I love Fall, but I am also dismayed because my free time is considerably scarce in Fall. I feel like I squandered my summer, even if it wasn’t entirely my fault, even if perhaps it was not my destiny to complete a revision, even if perhaps I wasn’t being realistic with my goals. Even if I managed to have some fun. Even if I have some great memories.
A girl’s allowed to have fun, right?
This pensiveness is compounded by my recent birthday. Every year, I put some thought into how I have led my life uptil this point, and how I would like to continue living my life. I like to look back and scan for lessons learned, for pivotal moments, for pivotal people, for people who loved me, and for people I love. I want to know what it is that made things better, and I like to envision more of those elements in my life, go forward.
I am thinking about people who are coming back into my life and how I would like to manage their return, and find more meaning in the initial separation. Some things in the past have taken on more clarity; enough time has now passed for me to see an additional pivotal moment now.
I am thinking of new people and new places and new experiences, and how the newness makes me feel like a child, in-love and enraptured and completely unaware of lurking danger and/or meaning.
I am happier now than I ever was. More sure of myself than I’ve ever been (even if I’m still filled with self-doubt at inopportune moments). One of the things that the last 5 years (so filled with unexpected and surprising lessons on sickness, death, and recovery) have brought me is a definite love of life, a love that I didn’t have in my earlier life, when I thought an early death might even be welcome. Now? I want to live until 100 years old. I want to be healthy all of those 100 years. I want to be happy all of those 100 years. I want to be productive. And I believe that there is a very good chance that I can be.
Even if I end up with a summer full of entirely unexpected experiences. Or maybe, this is the most pivotal summer of all.