When I was a child — maybe 7 or 8 — and spending summer days at my grandmother’s house, we would have a new word every day. I got to pick. It had to be a word I didn’t know, and over the course of the day, I would learn its meaning and spelling. One of the words was “yucca.” I remember that. I must have liked the sound of it.
The words were written down on a scrap piece of paper. My grandmother thought purchasing notepads was a waste of money and instead would save single-sided junk mail to write on the back. On Friday, there would be five words and their definitions written in my grandmother’s pointy cursive.
I loved our new words. I was a weird kid that way. I already had a thing for books and stories and language. So we learned new words and baked cookies and pies and bread from scratch, which also met with my approval. Especially the bread. Even as a kid I knew that homemade bread was better than everything.
Today I came across a word: leporine. I had to look it up. It means rabbit-like. I looked for a scrap of paper to write it down. Grandma, who isn’t doing quite so well anymore, would approve of “leporine,” and she would make me spell it.
Standing desk means writing with my feet firmly grounded. Head is another matter.
I’m pretty sure I’ve said the words “finished” and “edits” in the same sentence a dozen times in the last three months. Books are like that.
You think you’re done, and then you sleep on it. Your agent sleeps on it. And then you decide Chapter Six really could be a little smoother, punchier, faster, something. And so you polish and sand and hack and curse and cry until you’ve made it — you hope — better. And if you’re me, once you’ve done that, you really, really must read the whole thing again beginning to end just to make sure the new whole reads as it should. The last thing you want is for the seams to show. You think you’re done, and then… But this time! This time I think it’s true. I think I’ve done all I can do for now. Seriously, someone take this thing away from me.
Of course, now comes the really hard part. The time in between books when I’m scribbling thoughts on scraps of paper, not really working on anything yet, not sure what will come next, trying and failing to be patient with my subconscious. I catch up on paperwork and see friends I’ve neglected. I clean out closets and write here. (Sorry, guys.) I start thinking about taking up new hobbies I won’t actually do. (Maybe I should learn backcountry camping.) I let the well fill back up again.
Patience, patience, patience.