Readers, this spring I feel like I’ve been lurching from one deadline to another. I haven’t talked about this in the depth here, although regular readers may have noticed my quick mentions that I’d spend the weekend working on my book, again, mostly in Links I Love posts.
If you follow me on Instagram, I’ve shared a little more there, mostly snapshots of the writing process, involving multiple pens and highlighters, checklists galore, scissors for “surgery” days, and multiple cups of coffee.
I turned in my third draft on Monday, and later that same day, stumbled upon this quote from Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life. Dillard is one of those authors whose work seems to belong to me, (with apologies to Annie if that’s weird). In high school, we were assigned her essay on the moth—an excerpt from this book—and I loved it so much I kept reading her work on my own, then studied it in college. And then I graduated, and kept reading.
I love her earlier work best (with more apologies to Annie), and was delighted to have the universe throw this passage in my path the very day I turned in my draft, after I’d spent the weekend laying out my chapters, for the last time, on every inch of the kitchen island and dining room table, because an author seeking to solidify her structure needs to spread out.
How fondly I recall thinking, in the old days, that to write you needed paper, pen, and a lap. How appalled I was to discover that, in order to write so much as a sonnet, you need a warehouse. You can easily get so confused writing a thirty-page chapter that in order to make an outline for the second draft, you have to rent a hall. I have often “written” with the mechanical aid of a twenty-foot conference table. You lay your pages along the table’s edge and pace out the work. You walk along the rows; you weed bits, move bits, and dig out bits, bent over the rows with full hands like a gardener. After a couple of hours, you have taken an exceedingly dull nine-mile hike.– Annie Dillard, The Writing Life
I turned in my third draft this week, and expect to start the fourth—and, let’s hope, final—today. (File under “what I learned”: these May deadlines are for the birds. What parent can think when it’s end-of-school-everything season? Or Summer Reading Guide season?)
It may seem funny that I’m hard at work now, when the book won’t see the light of day till March. I’ll keep you posted. But for now I wanted to share what I’ve been doing, and when you get to/have to/I beg you to read it.