I wish you could see my underwear drawer. It’s—pristine. All divided by color, and lined up in nice perfect rows. (I will spare you the photo, so just imagine.) I have organized the heck out of it.
You should also see my upstairs summer closet. It is fabulous. Every t-shirt and even slightly saggy or out of fashion item has been removed, cleaned and donated. There is actually room in the closet for what’s there, and even a little left over. I could close my eyes, and select something wearable and the right size. I have organized the heck out of it.
The reason I am on this organizational rampage is that I will do anything, anything to avoid starting my new book. Girlfriends, I have actually considered changing the shelf paper in my kitchen cabinets.
Do you realize what that would entail?
Taking out each and every canister, jar, and can, weird tubes of anchovy paste and marginal cookies and packets of salad dressing, peeling away the tattersall-plaid paper lining, cleaning the wood underneath, driving through the SNOW to the the hardware store, choosing the perfect new paper, making sure there’s enough in stock, driving home, measuring, cutting, peeling, sticking, applying, and then REPLACING every canister, jar, can and tube of anchovy paste.
Do you REALIZE how long that would take, and what a PAIN that would be?
And yet, and yet, it is a walk in the park compared to sitting at my computer and starting my new book.
Now, truth be told, I do want to write it. (And TRUTH BE TOLD is an especially funny expression, since it it’s the title of my new book—my finished book!—the one which I had no idea how to write a exactly this time last year, and that is now about to be in galleys and is really really good if I do say so.)
So why am I contemplating actual housework instead of starting the new book? Why am I intimidated by myself? I have written SIX SUCCESSFUL NOVELS, (the most recent is THE WRONG GIRL)—I say to myself. Each time, (except the first time, which is an altogether different story because I had no idea) each time, I was apprehensive, and afraid, and each time I second-guessed my self.
“What if this is the time it isn’t going to work?” I wailed to my husband.
“That’s what you always say,” he replies, “and then it always works.”
“But what if this is the time it DOESN’T work?”
"That’s what you always say, too,” he says.
And he is right right right.
I just gave a movie-book talk about To Kill A Mockingbird , one of my favorite books and movies, and learned in my research that Harper Lee tossed the manuscript of TKAM out the window and into the snow, because she was so frustrated with it. Her agent made her go out and pick it out. You of course know Stephen King threw CARRIE into the trash—and his wife had to retrieve it.
It’s such a climb, isn’t it? Or like one hilarious and well-meaning pal of mine once described: “Like Godot pushing that boulder up the mountain. “
Yes, indeed. Or something like that.
So girlfriends, here’s the thing. I have a very good plot idea. And a title: WHAT YOU SEE. And I have—well, let’s call it faith in the universe. It has never failed me, not ever, that when it is really and truly time to start, the perfect words form in my brain, and there’s no force in the galaxy that can keep me from my desk.
Has that happened to you? It’s like some force says—okay, ready.
Peter DeVries famously say: “I write when I’m inspired, and I make sure I’m inspired very morning at 9 am.”
So today, as you are reading this, picture my house in Massachusetts. . My underwear drawer is perfect, my upstairs closet is perfect. My kitchen cabinets-- forget about that. I ‘ll do them next time. But it’s time. Really and truly time. I will be at my desk.
And slowly and wonderfully, I have complete confidence, WHAT YOU SEE will come to life.
I don’t have to write a whole book today, I have to write one page, maybe two. I’ll have great days, and I have horrible days. Ill have days when I’m in despair, and days when I secretly applaud myself. Word by word, page by page.
And soon, well, not soon, but eventually, I’ll do what I always do. I’ll call my husband in the study and say, “Sweetheart, watch this.” And I’ll type: THE END.
And next year, about this time—I’ll be thinking Wow. I did it. And I can’t wait to start again!
I might have to alphabetize my spices first. But hey. We do it how we do it. (What have you ever done to procrastinate?)