A couple of weeks worth of professional writing and coaching is behind me, and now I get to spend a couple of days back in the story before the weekend prep for another university coaching session on Monday. I tend to be a binge writer, sitting for a few hours a day every day in full immersion. It takes me right back to my dissertation, spending a year of fourteen-hour days doing fieldwork followed by a second year of six-hour days writing. Unfettered curiosity is a gigantic privilege, one that universities are surprisingly uninterested in, given that they have a business model to support and a corporate org chart to arrange their efforts within.
Anyway, when I first started doing dissertation fieldwork, I constantly had to temper my desires to learn everything right now! with the knowledge that a) I almost certainly wasn’t asking the right questions yet, and b) people didn’t trust me enough to tell me what the right questions would have been. It took patience with being confused, with just sitting in absorption and letting patterns appear.
So too with leaving a novel aside for two weeks. Your characters get a little crabby about it. You promised us your full attention, after all, and now you’ve run off to some other project for a couple of weeks? I don’t think so, bud. So now I have to make amends, I have to listen and to reassure them that I’m really, really there. They’re not going to tell me anything important for a few days, and that’s their right.
In fact, they’ll mess with me a little. They’ll lead me down a side road, they’ll want to talk endlessly about minutia like their trip back from the airport and what they had for dinner. That’s partly the nonversations we have, the small talk before the large talk… but I think it’s also a little tweaking, a little testing of patience. It’s the friendship tests that we set for one another after an absence, before we fall back into openness and trust.
So I got all of seven hundred words written today, the distilled artifact of probably four thousand words written and mostly abandoned. I looked up the ground radar at the Arcata Airport (airport code ACV), and what kinds of commercial planes most often fly in. I looked up the most popular IPAs made by Humboldt Redwoods Brewing, made sure that Arcata’s most popular burrito shop was still there. I watched clips from Letterkenny, which reminds me of Cale’s upbringing, and played a round of the number quiz Kakuro, which just lets me look for patterns.
When you leave, you have to wait for permission to come back.