Wednesday, August 1, 2012


by Elizabeth

I've done it again. Every year, my kids and I throw luggage and books and water shoes in the car and head east then north to visit friends, family, and to get wet on various rivers. Every year, I try to tack a visit to Colonial Williamsburg onto the trip, and every year, I realize I'm biting off too much.

But you can ask Joan: I habitually take really big bites. Then again, I'm pretty good at choking on my food.

This year, I thought I had finally done it. A combination of factors including my sister being out of town, friends headed on a cruise, and that overweening ambition of mine made it possible for us to spend two and a half days exploring colonial history. And then my daughter got sick. So I cancelled the first night at the hotel, figuring we'd just head out early the next morning instead, spend a day and a half, and still be fine.

Then it felt crunched, and I felt tired, and was a day and a half really enough or would I (and oh, yeah, the kids) feel cheated and shortchanged? Ambivalence set in, for the third or fourth year in a row, just when I thought I'd finally dodged it.

Writing can be like that, too. You might think you've found the perfect plot point, the perfect ending, even just the perfect schedule to work out the story's kinks--then bam. Something, or nothing happens, and there you are, questioning everything all over again.

One way or another, though, the next couple of days are going to pass, whether they include peanut soup or not. One way or another, the manuscript will advance or not, but what is certain is the time will go by.

Ambivalence can actually be useful sometimes. It can buy your characters the time they need for you to decide if they live or die, suffer or triumph. But if left to rule, it can eventually cripple your work, or your life.

Make a decision, Elizabeth. Then take that road. I'll let you know in a couple of weeks how it went.

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