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Cooking 101, as Taught by The Universe

My novel has been on the back burner for a few months. I have to admit that I’ve turned the heat off a few times. A big reason for that, I’m guessing, is that one of my characters is in the military, and I don’t know much about that world. I’ve done some reading, watched some documentaries, etc., all of which have been helpful. But obviously I need to talk to some people with some real-world experience.

I don’t tend to believe in signs, whether from a god, the universe, or whatever. I’ve seen that belief abused too many times to find much credibility in it. My mother gets signs all the time. More than a few times, she has praised the heavens upon finding an open parking space near a mall entrance, or a jar of mustard lost in the back of the refrigerator. Is this really how divine intervention works? So when I can’t find a close parking place, it’s not bad luck? Or when I get stuck on my novel, it’s because I’m waiting for a sign?

Last week, my interest in my novel heated up. I realized I’ve got to push forward. Over the spring and summer, I had corresponded with an aide to a legislator with a particular interest in veterans’ needs and rights. Our email correspondence has been slow; responses have taken weeks or months. In August, she had given me the name of a contact and asked if I wanted some information she had. I was heading back to school and wanted to include a question with my response, but I needed some time to think about it. A month passed, but I was busy. Over the next month, I was still busy, but I had other reasons and excuses, too.

On Friday, I decided I couldn’t let a third month slip by, so I found the message and wrote back. She wrote back within the hour and said she put the information in the mail. Since it was around 4:00 p.m., I expected to receive the info on Monday, but it came yesterday, less than 24 hours after I requested it. So much for the term “snail mail.”

The quick response is a sign, if only because I’m interpreting it that way. At best, the universe is giving me a supportive kick in the butt, but more likely, and more important, it’s a sign to turn the back burner on again.

I’ve worried too much about whether my writing would ever get published. It’s hard to feel motivated when I’m constantly asking myself, “What’s the point?” Fine. I’ll become as persistent as the lead guitarist of a garage band, driven to do this thing no matter what, and no matter if anyone else wants it.

Or as persistent as my mother, who sees signs whenever she needs them. She may be more open to the power of the universe than I, or maybe she interprets luck in ways that motivate her. Either way, she’s doing something a lot like writing, even if she’s not writing it down. (That’s fair; more often than not, I’m doing something like writing, without actually writing.) Although, I think she may be doing that. She’s such a closet writer. I come by these skills (and the related frustration) honestly, and have a lot to learn from her.

3 Responses

  1. Just a nod of commiseration, from a frustrated fellow writer who, five days before the NaNo, doesn’t have the foggiest idea what to write about.

  2. Thanks for the nod. I bow to you for having the courage/chutzpah to join in the NaNo festivities. I have yet to do it according to the guidelines, but I may use it turn up the heat on my current novel project. As I understand it, having something to write about is secondary to getting the writing done, so you really just need to crank out the words. As a believer in process theory, I think you’ll find something within the first day or two.

    BTW, will you be blogging about the experience? If so, let me know so I can post the link. If not, I invite you to send updates, since that’s what this blog is about. You could be an embedded reporter on the NaNo beat!

  3. I might very well use the NaNo as the theme of the month, but only if I really manage to find something to say. It would be embarrassing if I ran out of steam halfway, as I did last year. I found out that, even telling everyone what I was doing, adding the pressure of going public, didn’t get me quite to the finish line.

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