Last Friday, I lay/layed/laid down the law for my husband. I’m done being a housewife. I suck at it anyway and I resent all the time I spend working on the house when I should be spending that time finishing a novel I should have completed by now. (Phew. Got that?) But understand, about six weeks ago, my husband’s niece and her three young children (8, 5, 3) moved in with us, taking over my college age daughter’s bed and bath rooms, along with the game room. So they have their own little suite up there. However, that doesn’t prevent spill-over, which I don’t mind. They will only be with us about six months, give or take, and we are having a wonderful time. Her boys are a hoot and give my lone remaining son (10) immediate playmates. But its seems with the increase in dirty socks and cereal bowls (their mother works FT and is a PT student), I’m spending too much time away from my “real” work. So the law I lay/layed/laid is this:
If its something I can do when the kids are home, I won’t do it during the day. During the day, I’m going to write. I added that just because I can do something in the evenings when they are home doesn’t automatically mean I will be doing that. The dishes may sit for days, in other words, if there are ball games or such to attend. Or if I’m just worn out. He nodded. He’s a good sport, if nothing else. He’s also very orderly. So far, after one week, our marriage remains in tact.
But the wonder of wonders is that this week I succeeded in generating approximately 7,000 new words when, on a good week previous, I might’ve gotten 2-4 pages of new material. Those 7,000 words don’t include the tweaks and rewrites I had to make because I discovered errors in my historical accounting. (Curse the blending of fact into fiction!) And still, I feel I wasted too much time. I cheated one morning when the cupboards ran bare by going to the grocery store. Another day, when my brain was starting to sting, I ran a few worthless errands. But generally speaking, I stuck to my goal and had the time of my life.
I have to say, I find it so much easier to write as a woman nearing 5o than I did as a younger woman. And I don’t mean its easier because there are less distractions. There aren’t. Or at least there haven’t been for me. What I mean is that writing is literally so much easier. The experience of writing and rewriting over a few decades pays offs. Now when I sit down, I know exactly what I want to achieve and I have learned the way to achieve it. There were days-way-back-when when I had to write a full story out in order to begin to understand what I wanted to say. Then I had to rewrite it. And then rewrite that rewrite. And on and on.
Sure, I still rewrite. As I said, this week I had some tweaks to make because some historical misinformation had sneaked into my historical subplot. But most of the rewriting I do occurs immediately, even sentence by sentence, because I have that much more control over the craft. I can’t wait to actually have this darn thing finished.
But I’ve also noticed that, in addition to simply having a better mastery of craft, my intuitive skills seem sharper. Whoever thought of intuition as a skill? But it is. I think. In my religious life, I speak of learning to recognize the promptings of the Spirit, to follow them as my guide. Of course, artists like to speak of their Muse, and many faithful artists are convinced the traditional Muse and the Holy Ghost are one and the same. Perhaps. My husband nurtures the idea that we have hidden in our subconscious, because of our pre-earth life, answers to many of the problems that will occur in our lives; it is up to us to tap into that subconscious and wisely (and bravely) follow it. I side with his thinking these days because the intuitive side of my writing often feels as if I am tapping into resolutions I already sensed.
Just yesterday, I wrote a scene that left me feeling this way. I had a clear and strong sense of how I wanted the scene to progress; I thought I knew where it would progress. And I wrote the scene very much by gut but implementing all the craftiness in my possession. It worked exactly as I wanted. I’m at a point in the manuscript where my protagonist, Joe Egbert, begins to sense that polygamy isn’t just a salacious rumor. I need him to discover this in a way that will ultimately allow the reader to accept his eventual acceptance. But the character’s initial reaction, I sense, should mirror the general public’s reactions–that of ill-ease and, perhaps, horror. It is undoubtedly the single most difficult part of the novel to craft. But I followed my intuition (after much thought, mind you) and wrote the scene. I won’t bore you with detail, but I wrote the scene expecting the character to leave his house and go visit Orson Pratt.
When I learned Orson Pratt wasn’t in Nauvoo at the time, I was thrown for a loop. While I had made conscious choices about how to craft the scene, the direction of the scene had been gut-directed. And now this total collapse? I considered how I could rewrite the scene so it ended differently, but my re-read convinced my this was precisely the passage that should happen next. This is what the character would do. This is what the reader needs next. In other words, my gut told me not to change the scene.
So I quieted my mind and soon realized the wealth that would open up to me by having the character visit Pratt’s wife instead of Pratt himself. Suddenly, the scene I’d just written, though a combination of craft and gut, had more bang for its buck than I’d imagined. The next scene and the next scene appeared to me, I’d say intuitively. A few years back I might’ve thought this accidental, but now I don’t. But quicker, also, than I remember having had such experiences in the past. I suppose the improvement in my skills has given the Muse/Spirit/Intuition has a surer footing and so I hear from “it” more often. Turns out, the years of work have been worth it.
Years of work. <heavy sigh>
I haven’t forgotten my intention to write a few words on ambiguity and endings. Just haven’t completely formed those thoughts…since I’m working hard on my own writing. I’m in the process of rereading Dancing Naked, after having received a FB msg from the author. I hope to discuss this novel soon. But its baseball season. My son is playing in a city league, and as long as the Ranger’s keep winning, I won’t be doing much reading.