March 2, 2009: Mud In My Toes

I sometimes think writing a novel is a lot like being involved in a long-term romantic relationship. There’s the first mad attraction, followed by the fizzy high of infatuation, when nothing can go wrong and nothing could possibly be better than this moment, this relationship.

Time goes by; you grow used to one another; you start to take each other for granted. The little annoyances become major irritants. Others start to look more attractive, and you start to think you’d rather be with someone else than spend another moment in this relationship.

Sometimes, though, if you stick with it, if you don’t succumb to the lure of that other, shinier idea, you look at the familiar and see it in a new way, and suddenly you’re in love all over again.

That’s happened to me with Dragonfly. Not that I was anywhere near abandoning it — I’m finishing this if it kills me, because I am not setting aside another project — but the sheer, “ooh, shiny!” fun has been absent for a while. I’ve been pleased with where the story is going, recognizing that the way it’s morphed has been necessary. But I haven’t been excited by my ideas, or at least not as excited as I am today. I was thinking about Ennevel, thinking about how she lands where she lands, and an idea about Kerlis drifted through my mind. I thought, “I would love to write that,” in that, ‘I would love to do this thing I can’t do’ kind of way, and then I realized I can write what came to mind. There’s nothing stopping me: It works in the story; it works for the character. The only thing tripping me up was that I’ve never done anything like it, which is no reason not to do something.

When I was a kid, we lived in a house that had a little yard surrounded by a high, cinder-block wall. If my father had been capable of growing a lawn, it would have made a pretty little courtyard-like space, but he had no more sense of lawn care than I do of flying, and so what we had, any time we turned the hose on, was a mudhole. To this day, I can remember the cool, silky feel of the mud between my toes, the sheer deliciousness of the sensation. In my memory, I’m grinning as I stand up to my ankles in mud, squeezing it with my toes, blissful. For some reason, when I think of playing in my manuscript, when I think of writing something because it seems like it’ll be fun, mud between my toes is what I think of.

Every long term relationship that survives has these moments of grace, places of rest in the long journey. Without them, nothing would last; it would be too hard to go on. Next time I start to think Dragonfly is irreparably flawed, I need to remember this moment.

I need to remember mud in my toes.

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