I seem to have spent most of the past month waiting.
– Waiting for my annual breast cancer checkup results (I had BC in 2000, yearly checks now) – when the letter finally came it said all was well (or rather, medical speak for same : “no significant abnormalities”!!) but annoyingly had been written on 12 Dec, scheduled for posting on 16th (they even print these things on the letter!), and actually sent on 23rd, arriving on 27th. The worry factor is nothing like the levels of several (or even 9!!) years ago, but it does always sit there in the back and sometimes forefront of my mind and having had the letter a couple of days after it was originally meant to be posted would have been far preferable to waiting most of the holiday season.
– Waiting for cheques. Several people/companies/festivals owe me for work/events in October and November. I sent reminder emails in mid Dec, they replied saying such a shame their offices were now closed until January and they’d certainly get on to it then. Yup, I can see me saying the same to my bank.
– Waiting for Editor’s notes on new book. This is a hard one. I know they all have loads to do, I know it’s a business, I know Editor’s officially on holiday now, like all people with a real job and so hell, why should she be looking at work right this minute (just because me and every other writer I know are!), I know there are books scheduled and needing work way sooner than this one of mine (which after all, isn’t due to be published until 2010) BUT … the longer I don’t hear, the more my mind turns to “she hates it”/”they don’t want to publish”. Fortunately I have masses of Agent support for this book (Agent is always supportive, but she’s especially keen on this one), so I’m not (yet) starting to imagine that the book itself is utter dross. But I do hate the wait. I also want to get on with any notes from Editor, not least because it’s the first of a two-book idea and I’m keen to get on with the second part of the story. (I started it thinking it was a one-book idea, then realised it was far bigger and the whole story fit nicely into two halves. I gather this is common with historical fiction, finding that it’s bigger than it seemed at first. Have heard stories of one becoming two, becoming four. Am hoping this story stays at two!)
which leads me neatly to
– Waiting to begin. I am waiting to begin my new book. The second of these two books. Waiting to feel that everything is in place, that I know enough of the story to start, without knowing so much it will bore me to write it all out. Waiting for that first sentence to show itself and pull me into putting words on screen on paper. I know this all sounds a bit muse-y, and I’m far from believing in the muse (despite the fact that this particular story has an awful lot of coincidences and mystical/unusual/odd occurrences around it), but the truth is that with the first of these two books, I did about 6 months of research (for both), and was going to take some time away from it to let it sit for a while while I got on with writing a play and directing another, but then the story just kept nudging at me anyway, I met a complete stranger who said something very relevant and showed me something else astonishingly connected, and I just HAD to get started, some months earlier than I meant to, working on it while I was doing the theatre work, working on it because I couldn’t put it off any longer. Now I feel as if I’m almost/sort of/kind of ready to start this second book. (Editor’s notes will make a difference, but they won’t – I expect! – substantially change what happens next in these two books, and I quite often edit one piece while starting to write another, so that’s not unusual.) I’m almost ready but not quite. I’m waiting for it to come into clearer focus. And I know it will, if I wait. So I’m re-reading the research books, looking again at the notes I started making two years ago, letting the story sit. Or set perhaps. Letting it begin, so I can.
I’m not mystic at all about writing. My usual take on it is that it’s craft, not art, get on with it, use your skill, use other people’s skill, do the work, do more work. But I AM a little mystic about Story. And I do think it needs time, space. I’m waiting. Waiting for that opening line, like the bulbs in my garden (some of the poor things up a little early and having a hard time of this frost) I know it’s there.
There’s a nice buddhist term for this – ku. Meaning (very basically) neither existence nor non-existence, latent, potential. Right now this new book is the cherry tree in winter. Spring will come, the tree will blossom. Just because there are no blossoms, doesn’t mean the tree doesn’t exist. Just because I haven’t written it, doesn’t mean my story doesn’t exist. The first line will come, I’ll start the book. For now, I’m waiting.