Back from New York; best trip ever. After all my work stress, I resolved that this time I would not try and run and go and do and pack every minute full, nor would I experience paroxysms of guilt if I had a few hours’ free time. I saw fewer art exhibits than usual, and spent more time in parks, and that was fine. Better than fine, really, since some of that park time was spent outlining not only the “Christopher interlude” but also the first bits of part two. I felt like a native this time – instead of worrying about how I’d fill a Sunday morning before a 3 pm curtain, I thought, how would a native spend it? So I stayed in bed and read the Times and went to a movie (Polisse) and went to the park to write. I must have looked like a native at last, because I was asked twice for transit directions. Of course I’m a fair-weather native; the temp was in the high 70s the whole time with clouds and rain moving in just as I left. It’s one thing to know that you’re ready to live in NYC in May and October, another to imagine it in January or August, and of course there’s the whole how-much-it-costs-to-live-there thing. Still, I finally saw myself there as something other than a tourist, or an impostor. It helped that in my mind I “am” a writer again, instead of “was” a writer, or a “never was” who’s had something in a drawer for a few years that gets pulled out here and there when the urge hits.
Every other trip in the last few years, I’ve spent my time “thinking” about what I’d write when I got to the end of part one, thinking vaguely about this scene with Christopher in New York after his sellout/betrayal of Nick and Caroline. But this time, I arrived in NYC having *finished* (with the possible exception of a short coda which honestly I’m not seeing the need for) part one. And I sat in a little turnout on the High Line on Saturday, and in Washington Square Park on a warm Sunday afternoon,and blocked out what feels like the next forty pages of the book. I feel like I have “quarterback eyes” on it now, seeing the whole field, every possibility, picking the right angle, adjusting on the fly, in control of the play.
It certainly helped that, just as things were falling apart at work, that the agent’s assistant contacted me and said, yes, he was still interested in seeing my 100 pages. Gloriana in Excelsis! I feel good about my prospects of being published again – I’ve always had perfect spelling and grammar, not to be underestimated as a selling point for a novelist. My editors used to say, “your writing is so clean, I hardly have to lift the pencil.” If you save them time and effort, they want to work with you. I only missed a deadline once in eight books, and though I could be difficult when it came to things like titles and jacket copy and cover art (my first novel, Death Wore a Smart Little Outfit, is an excellent contender for worst jacket art ever), I’ve learned my lesson about how much control I can expect (or at least gotten on enough mood stabilizers to dampen my grandeurs). My dialogue is “real” and I’m in no way a sentence cultist, so I’ve never had any desire to write for a narrow audience. Yeah, I’m feeling good, coach, put me in.
I think it actually helps that things are in flux at work – sorry, no details; I’m not delusional enough to think everyone there reads this nor stupid enough to presume nobody does. But it does light a fire under you when your complacency gets shattered and you remember nobody’s job is safe. There are things I need to do to keep my job, and at the same time, things I need to do to try and put myself in a position where I’m back doing the job I do best, better than most, there or elsewhere – writing. And I’m taking an enormous amount of pleasure, for the first time in a long time, writing a novel.