The idea of a writing talisman took the form of 2 Zabar’s mugs in NYC 2 years ago, when my writing (accountability) partner/friend and I were exploring Manhattan. I had vowed to complete a draft of my novel, and she had a deadline to finish her second. We discussed a partnership; she and I would encourage each other throughout our respective novel drafts, and update each other with word counts. We were on a high. We spotted a legion of Zabar’s mugs at…Zabar’s. They were $2/each. It was a no-brainer. We were giddy with optimism. We bought one each. We blessed them. We blessed our novels and our writing.
My Zabar’s mug served me well while I wrote my first draft. It sat, in stoic silence, as I puttered through my draft, and it was there when I, in a state of disbelief, admitted that I had a first draft in front of me.
I left my old Zabar’s mug in California when I moved out to NYC. And bought a new Zabar’s mug. It broke, as if to say it wasn’t signing up for revision. Or as a kind friend put it, “It means your creativity is explosive!” Whatever the case, I freaked out a little.
But then, it turned out that my friend’s mug also broke awhile back; she said she didn’t have the heart to tell me when it had.
Sometimes, the old talisman fulfills its purpose. Sometimes, the old talisman is a $2 mug, and it’s bound to break.
My friend came out to NYC again. We vowed to get revision mugs for our novels-in-progress, both in mid-revision. The revision process is lonelier–there are no clear milestones to mark your way, no word counts. There’s not much a writing accountability partner can do in the revision stage, save for occasional encouragement. For me, it’s real work. It’s working on the stuff that I knew would be hard the first go through. It’s addressing character development and plot holes. It’s holding back on line editing until subsequent revisions. It’s discipline. I need a talisman more than ever.
We got the mugs. We’d forgotten our quest for revision mugs until we stepped into The Strand–and right there, in front of us, were a whole lot of mugs. It felt right. Those were our mugs. The ones with owls on ’em. I pointed and let out some sort of squeaky sound. The mugs were $11.50/each. “They probably won’t break this time,” I said, in order to qualify the price.
And revision continues.