Two weeks ago, a friend shared a bit of wisdom from the writer, E.L. Doctorow: “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” Shortly before that, I had come across the words of another writer, John Steinbeck, in Travels with Charley: “I wondered how in hell I’d got myself mixed up in a project that couldn’t be carried out. It was like starting to write a novel. When I face the desolate impossibility of writing five hundred pages a sick sense of failure falls on me and I know I can never do it. This happens every time. Then gradually, I write one page and then another. One day’s work is all I can permit myself to contemplate and I eliminate the possibility of ever finishing.”
I have been practicing living as if I were seeing only as far as my headlights (which is true anyway), and it’s been fine and interesting. Here where I live, it has rained off and on for about nineteen days straight. It’s been dreary and wet and foggy and for some lovely, heavenly reason, I haven’t been brought low by it as I usually am when the sky is nothing but cloud and I can’t see into the wild blue yonder. I’m okay. It feels like something has jelled, like something I’ve believed for a long time has matured into certainty. It was also nice to get a couple of confirming “messages” from the Universe (in the guise of masterful writers, of course).
As a writer, I know the “sick sense of failure” Steinbeck talks about, the sinking feeling of knowing neither the beginning nor the ending of the story, while still knowing that one little well rounded paragraph, than another, will come into being. It happens. If it didn’t, I’d have never written anything. let alone a book.
This “jelling” is strangely timely, because I got an offer on my house a couple of days ago. I’ve had two others that did not go to completion, and I was devastated both times. This time it’s different. I am detached from the outcome as I go into this third round, or as a friend of mine calls it, this Kabuki dance. My house has been on the market for three years. I won’t reiterate the agony of these three years; I’m as tired of my dreary story as my friends and readers are. At first, I wasn’t going to mention the offer to anybody, afraid that I might “jinx” it. As if I could. I’m no more in charge of the outcome than I am of the sun rising tomorrow. I made a counter offer. The buyer went on vacation.
I’ll wager that no writer is one hundred percent sure how the story is going to turn out until the last word is typed. Yes, we have our schemes, our plots and our outlines, but when we surrender, really surrender to the writing process, the story is allowed to surprise us, delight us with twists and turns we did not foresee. Trusting the Universe is like that. It’s knowing on a deep level that everything is going to be all right. Oh, we have to do our part. We have to fill out the documents. We have to sit down in front of the computer. Then, we have to trust that where we will end up will be just where we are supposed to be.
I don’t believe this. I know it.