Just like Finland

So we’re at 25,000 words. That comes out to 100 standard pages. As usual the real page count differs depending on where you’re reading it.

Progress has been slow, this chapter. It’s not entirely a creative problem; it’s more the consequence of practical demands: moving house, attending to the changing needs of my family. I have much on my mind, and scant time to act on any of it.

Still, the daily updates continue. Right now I’m in the middle of a flashback, which is providing me the chance to explore a couple of characters and the basis of their relationship. Though to me it may feel like meandering, every time I wind up on one of these tangents I return with something crucial that I would not have found otherwise. In retrospect the book wouldn’t be what it is without these regular side steps. So though I may feel lost, I am gaining faith in the material as a guide.

Caves All the Way Out

There we go. I seem to have broken that hump, and now the prose can flow.

This character is always harder for me, possibly because his thoughts and motivations are so much more pronounced. It’s easier for me to hint than to state, and there is so much here to be coy about — yet without some kind of exposition I’ll never get anywhere.

I guess I don’t have to worry much about subtlety. Something I have noticed — even when I feel like I’m screaming and hammering a point to death, others tend not to pick up on the signs. For many years I wondered how everyone around me could be so dim. It’s only lately that I realized I might actually be that obscure.

Crimson and Ivory

Often I despair of this project, particularly as I start a new chapter. Though I sit here, days pass when hardly a word goes down. I read what I’ve written, and it seems so forced. Clearly I’m on the wrong track, but I don’t know if I can change direction.

Then something shifts. I change a few words, add a few sentences at the start, and it all makes sense. It flows. It could use another draft, like anything — maybe some expansion — but it works. Then the momentum kicks in. It’s working, so it just keeps working, building, growing.

And the changes are so small. It’s the tiniest details that trip me; the wrong syntax, or the right thoughts in the wrong order. I get flustered. I give up. I need to quit that.

This chapter isn’t the one that I wanted to write; it’s the one that the book has presented to me. There will be a place for that chapter, but right now this demands to exist. I think I moved that chapter up, anyway. Originally it was to come much later in the book; it was only while mapping out the book on a napkin, in a sleazy diner at Coney Island, that it wound up so early in the list.

It seems the more that I plan this book the more that it defies me. It was a cordial relationship so long as we kept ambling toward some vague goals together. I should know better than to exert my will over these things. I know that I’m not in control here; I just get it in my head that I need to be professional, or responsible. And then there’s this power struggle, and I come away frustrated.

The book will always win. Got to get that into my head. Just go with it. It has its reasons.

My wife and I want to express the most profound gratitude to Ryan Newman for his support of this project. Thanks also to everyone who has been following along and encouraging our progress.