A few months ago I got up early (for me) – around 5:30 a.m. I’m definitely not a morning person. But I’ve heard and read so much about writers who have children getting all of their writing hours in before the kids are even awake. And so I thought I’d give it a try. I crept down the stairs, made the coffee, opened that screen, and was surprised by how easy it was to get going. I wrote a few solid pages before I heard the doors begin to creak open upstairs. I turned off the computer, already all caffeined-up and felt like I had it all.
And then later on that day, I reread what I had written during my early session and realized that I had completely messed up the timelines in my novel. The story I’m writing takes place during three different time periods. Basically, I had a character from the present day timeline calling to talk to her husband about something that she worried happened to a character from the middle timeline (the eighties). That was all I needed to convince myself that indeed I am really not a morning person. I am just not productive during those early hours. I’m not meant to drag myself out of bed that early to work on something creative.
Then yesterday morning I was playing “This Little Piggy” on my son’s toes as I put his socks on. When I got to the part about “this little piggy has roast beef,” instead I said something like “this little piggy has pizza.” A minor alteration. I don’t know why I couldn’t just stick to the script. Though it’s new to him, it feels so played out in my own head. But he didn’t like it. He made me do it over again the “right” way. “What’s wrong with getting a little creative?” I asked him. “That’s not how you do it,” he giggled. Conversation was done for him.
When I sat down to write again last night I reread my last few pages. I’m in somewhat of the middle I’d say of the story and feeling a bit stumped. Though I had a sense at the beginning of how each character’s story would end, I still need to navigate the story to get there. I just finished reading Dani Shapiro’s excellent writing memoir Still Writing. It is broken into three sections: Beginning, Middle, and Ends. There are many quotable passages, but this one stood out to me:
“When you’re in the home stretch, it seems the universe reaches out to support you. It meets you more than halfway.” -Dani Shapiro
And then I looked at my last few pages, and thought about Shapiro’s words, and “This Little Piggy,” and while I hate that this may be true, I wondered, maybe the universe was sending me a message that early morning when I got up to write. Maybe my timelines are supposed to intersect towards the end. Sure, it’s a bit unprecedented, and there will be readers, like my son, who will say: “No, no, it doesn’t go that way.” But I have read a lot of books in my lifetime, and as an avid reader, I don’t think I’d scoff at this idea. Maybe, instead, I’d welcome a writer taking this kind of risk. This is all early in the experimentation phase, and again, I hate to think that I really do need to get up that early to make these kind of discoveries, but we’ll see. Aside from a few friends who I’ve read aloud a page or so just so I can prove to myself that I have actually created something real these past few months, my story currently exists in a tiny world of its own. And, there’s a real chance that this manuscript will end up in a drawer. And I’m okay with that. I know I’m learning something through this process. And I’ll know I’ll take my time, and when I feel it’s ready, I’ll try to sell it, but for now, I’m just going to keep writing…