Sep 2, 2008

The Cure for the Wait

Friends around me are bemoaning the end of summer, but I’m eager to move forward, hunker down to work on something new. I gave myself a break after I shipped Finding Alice off to the Italian publisher. I did a pastel portrait of a beautiful friend, painted a new baby’s name on paper (an apple for an “a,” an eye for an “e” and so forth), water-colored flowers on notes thanking friends for delicious dinners. I even tried to play golf with disastrous results. Mostly I waited. To hear if the agent I’d queried wanted to read Alice, to hear if it was a go with the Italians. Waiting, that’s part of the job description of a writer. Wait for an agent, wait for a publisher, wait for the reviews, wait for the royalty statement. I hate it.

There’s only one cure for it—plunge into a new world of my own making. Easier said than done. Where’s the idea? I do want to write a historical, something from way back. I’ve gone so far as to order a book about the period I’m interested in, but the historical needs at least two years of research and I need to write now.

I put the research book on my night table and dug into other books--Story of a Marriage, The Maytrees, Out Stealing Horses and two dread-provoking books by Ruth Rendell. Reading makes me want to write all the more, but I still didn’t have an idea.

A few weeks ago, I met three women for our monthly lunch. An out-of-town friend of one of them joined us. Diane had rented an apartment in the city for a month from a landlord she had never met before, and when she walked into the living room she saw something that startled her. It wasn’t anything scary, just odd. We continued to chat about other things—mostly politics given the times—but my mind’s eye held on to the scene of Diane walking into a home she’d never been in before, owned by someone she’d never met and seeing…what? I can’t say because there it was—the seed of an idea.

I let it sit in a warm nook of my brain to sprout. As the days passed a few tiny leaves began to show, but it’s still pretty weak. I have a premise that involves two women, a man, changing names, an old crime. No title. No middle. No end. That’s normal for me. I like to discover as I write.

The first scene unspooled in my head in the early hours of last week. I’m only half awake at five, six o’clock in the morning, but it’s a magical time for me. The world hasn’t entered my consciousness yet. The only sounds might be from my husband’s soft breaths or the birds on our neighbors’ terrace—reassuring sounds. I keep my eyes closed and start weaving a new world.

In my fully awake hours I’ve been jotting down notes on whatever pieces of paper I find handy at the moment I need them. They’re barely legible and full of scratched out lines, but it doesn’t matter. I’m ready to take the plunge. Wish me luck.