The warmer weather in New England means one thing in particular for me. I get to take my walk
After months of miserable winter weather I can also enjoy nodding to other walkers, people who are strangers to me because I haven't seen them since last September. My husband and I both marvel at the number of people who get out for a walk on the first few warm days in March and April. But he's too preoccupied with the current problems of his printer to take it any further. Not me. I follow the thought right into the world of writing.
Today, in this mild day that feels like spring, but isn't, I kept thinking about two words, discipline and perseverance, which define the commitment to writing as well as to walking through the wintry days as well as the warm, sunny ones. These are the code words that keep writers going when we are sick of the story we're working on, no longer think it's worth finishing, or can't figure out how to finish it. The characters sound stupid and insipid, the plot has holes in it, and the sentences sink faster than the Lusitania. But we stick to it. We finish that story, that novel, that essay, and let it sit and age just long enough before we review and revise. And, to our utter amazement, the story isn't all that bad.
In every story I write there is a moment when I question if the story or novel is good enough. This is different from beginning a project and knowing that it isn't going to work; that's a professional judgment that comes after long hours of trying to get it right. Finishing a story requires the same steady determination that pushes the runner to add a mile this week and another one next week, or urges the walker to climb the snowbank to get to the road, or to avoid oncoming cars on an ice-slick street.
Right now I'm finishing up another Anita Ray mystery, and I can see the end. I don't want it to come too soon because I still have a lot of loose threads to tie together, and I want the bow to be neat and orderly. This takes another kind of discipline--the ability to restrain myself from bolting for the finish line. There is nothing worse than enjoying a story all the way through to the last few chapters and then have the writer rush the ending.
Anita Ray has grown into a thoughtful woman who assesses the world around her, gathers details into a larger picture, and readies herself for the confrontation. She isn't impulsive, though her Auntie Meena thinks otherwise, and she isn't reckless, though her fascination with violent death worries her relatives. She takes her time, sticks to her investigation, and holds on to the end.
Discipline and perseverance.
These two words carry the runner, the walker, and the writer to the finish line.