"Between the conception and the creation…"

…falls the anticipation, to paraphrase T. S. Eliot.*

I love anticipation.

“I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.”
–Wallace Stevens, from “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”

I know which to prefer.  I prefer the beauty of the silence before the blackbird sings again.  Revelation inhabits the moment between the orchestra tuning up and the start of the symphony.  It resides in the sublime silence between cacophony and harmony, in the moment before something begins.

I can’t stand romance novels because the characters always fall in love/into bed way too quickly.  There’s no anticipation.  Give me Elizabeth Bennett’s verbal sparring with Mr. Darcy any day.

As a general rule, I much prefer anticipating something to actually getting it.  I’m not sure this is a good quality for a writer.  I should probably want to get where I’m going.  Perhaps this explains why I suddenly find myself with too many literary irons in the fire.  I have a completed YA fantasy manuscript that needs to be either massively rewritten or stuck in a deep, dark drawer.  Then there’s the current YA fantasy manuscript that, like many relationships, seems attractive at the beginning but has slowly degenerated into something with the potential to embarrass me at parties.  In a satirical fit after reading too many vampire novels, I began a vampire-novel parody in which the vampires are not very sexy and still have to pay rent like everybody else.  Last year, I tried writing a love story for the first time, and I felt like a little kid playing dress-up.  I keep getting distracted by ideas for a sequel to Novel #1 and a totally unrelated other YA fantasy novel.  Then there’s the essay I want to write about early-spring gardening, the memoir I keep threatening my sister with, and my yearly Christmas project of making both of my boys picture books based on their weird little escapades during the year.

Maybe this obsession with anticipation explains my long and tumultuous love-affair with the To-Do List.  When I think about it, that’s what to-do lists are really about for me.  They’re about planning, thinking, anticipating.  But I’ve never made a to-do list for two of my most important roles:  writer and mom.  So…..

A Writer.mom To-Do List

  • finish the novel
  • finish the laundry
  • get to know other writers
  • get to know myself after five years at home with little kids
  • find a critique group
  • find the car keys
  • look for an agent
  • teach my 3-year-old to look where he’s going (seriously–this is how we ended up in the Urgent Care a couple of weeks ago)
  • go to writers’ conferences
  • go to the bathroom alone, without the company of two boys, a dog, or any of their friends
  • read extensively in my field
  • read the manual before operating the whatever
  • get published
  • get to bed before tomorrow
  • create believable, compelling characters
  • raise two boys who will become men of character
  • scrap the redundant, flowery, boring, trite, and plain ol’ stoopid in my writing
  • scrap the idea that I have to be the perfect mother
  • scrap the idea that there is such a thing as the “perfect mother”
  • write every day
  • tell my children I love them every day

One down, twenty to go.

 *Sorry, T. S. Eliot.  Messing with you feels like painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa.  But then I’ve always been sort of a verbal grafitti artist.

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4 thoughts on “"Between the conception and the creation…"

  1. About accountability: Writers need a to-do list because, let's face it, writing is painful,though having written feels very good. One of the most dead-on, yet funny writing lists was in a cartoon in the New Yorker. A guy was shipwrecked on the stereotypical tropical island–very small with only one coconut palm and ocean as far as the eye can see. His list read something like this1. rake the sand2. polish the coconut3. count the sea shells4. catch a fish5. count the clouds6. make sure the sand doesn't need raking raking again7. scan the horizon for passing ships8. write (if there is still time)Great! You made time for writing today.

  2. Catlover, I love this list! I'm adding it to my "List of Things to Take the Next Time I'm Stranded on a Desert Island." I'm afraid I spend way too much time raking the metaphorical sand. But I am making time to write, and that really does feel like a victory most days!

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