Works in Progress

A bit of weatherstripping on the front door and utility panels of the Airstream. Hauling one more locust tree for a water bar. Replacing two windows. Digging the hitch out from the dirt to prevent rust. Attaching the showerhead, trimming the shower curtains, hauling away unwanted blocks and pieces of wood. It’s the little things now, or so it seems, and at a certain point work will have to stop. I’m aiming for November 1st, though my Dad—the brains and talent behind this entire restoration—chuckled when I said as much. He must know there will always be more to do. He must know, likewise, that even when the hands aren’t busy the mind still runs in circles, plans, and solves problems.

It’s not too unlike the writer’s brain that tackles problems with a novel, story, or essay while busy doing other things. In order to write, I need to read (and contemplate what works and what doesn’t about a particular author’s craft), exercise (and let my mind be free of all agendas while my body takes over), and meditate (to notice my mind and train in the ability to focus in the present moment). There are plenty of times I’ve “stopped” writing while other parts of me are still very hard at work on the writing that’s yet to come.

As I started work on the novel again this week, I received some good reminders. The first was that a novel is just made up of scenes. Take one scene at a time and go from there. Sure, other things crop up between, but from the small-chunk perspective, it is very comforting to remember this and just sit down, exhale, and write a single scene. I was also reminded to find a model novel to follow. I know this—imitation and mimicry of form is a strong starting point for many authors, though the source material always falls away in the end—but I haven’t yet found a novel that feels like it’s doing what I’m trying to do. It’s one of those “I’ll know it when I see it” things. Third, I was reminded to emphasize the present narrative. If the bulk of my narrative becomes flashback, something is likely going awry. Since that seems to keep happening to me, I’ve got my radars up for this big-time. What, exactly, I’m supposed to do to avoid this problem is beyond me at this point but at least I know when it’s happening and I see it for what it is.

It’s been pretty interesting (and challenging) to live inside of something as it is being renovated and prepared for full-time use. It’s also interesting trying to live inside my own novel, one that isn’t nearly complete but that I can envision will one day be polished and ready to meet the world. The two experiences are not as dissimilar as they first sound and, of course, without the Airstream I wouldn’t have a space to work on the novel. Here’s hoping both of them are one day finished!

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