30th September 2016
The best laid schemes of mice and men gang aft aglay, says Scotland's famous bard. It was my plan to get off the plane in Aspen, sleep a while and then finish those last few pages on the novel before sending it off to my agent. But that's not the way it happened. I came back to a computer not working, and now I'm using someone else's laptop, and it is doing things my dinosaur computer never did, not doing things I need it to. So, I started reading my novel again from the beginning. That's how aglay I am. I read over the first chapter and made some changes, went to bed, and when I got up, the changes had turned to poison. It's the writer's worst nightmare: the lines that seemed so magical yesterday feel like drek today. Your flights of creative word-mongering that seemed so, well, Yeatsian in the moment, feel today like Enid Blyton.
So, I pushed aside the travel books about Scotland and reached for one of those comfort tomes I often mention on this blog: Paul Harding's Pulitzer Prize winning, "Tinkers."
I sat on my couch on the porch with a cup of tea nestled against my thigh and started reading. Lovely words, that would seem Yeatsian no matter what the time of day: ...chopping a hole in the ice and slding into it as if it were a blue vein, sliding down into the black, silty bottom of the lake, where you see nothing, perhaps feel only the stir of some somnolent fish in the murk as the plunge of you and your wool dress and the big boots disturb its sluggish winter dreams of ancient seas.
And then I am reminded what I do this for, why I tie myself in knots for the sake of one split second of illumination when the words you chose are the words that carry the mystery from your pen to the heart of the reader. I sipped my tea and cried. And then I went back to my own words, and they didn't seem so bad after all. It must have just been the hobgoblins