Monday, December 16, 2013

Back to Normal?

by Elizabeth

What a weird week it's been. This time last Monday we were still eyeing the icy driveway of our retreat house wondering if we would be calling the landlady and begging for one more night. Instead, we rolled up our pants cuffs, scraped ice off the two sedans blocking the two cars in the house's garage, and all of us got on the road home. One by one we texted we'd arrived safely home (I was last, toting Kim and stopping twice for fried chicken to feed our ravenous families), school was on all over the place, and by Tuesday morning, it was back to normal.

Except it kind of wasn't, at least for me. December, remember, I was quickly reminded with the arrival of the mail and some Christmas cards in the box. (I quit sending them myself about half a dozen years ago, and though my name has dropped from others' lists, it's a task I have yet to regret eliminating.) Candy to make, gifts to buy and wrap, and with two teenagers in the house, stress over upcoming finals to deal with.

My manuscript, rife with post-its and handwritten notes, sat untended.

But not in my head. As I (finally) walked the dog, the real purpose of a secondary but critical character gelled. As I stirred a pan of boiling butter and sugar, a plot point as sticky as the toffee I was cooking resolved itself. And best of all, as I picked up a couple of gifts, the characters I'd drawn on the page felt as real and alive to me as the people for whom I was shopping.

In the following days, I managed to sit down in front of my PC and work through the notes I'd written at the retreat. I'll tackle more of it today, and throughout the week before the kids are home for break beginning Friday. I hope to work on it while they lounge in their pajamas enjoying the respite from school, but what I learned this fall I plan to carry through the winter: make a modest goal based on a spectrum of time rather than a daily lashing, and the work will get done. Not only done, but done faster, because for me, that longer-term goal is one at which I succeed, whereas the years have taught me that insisting on a daily word count is a good way to take three years to complete a first draft.

So normal? Well, the ice has melted, the tree is decorated, the kids are at school, and after I make a run to the airport, I have some time to sit down with these folks I love and find out what gets plugged in or pulled out. It's the new normal. And I'm loving it.

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