The Mysteries of Timing

This morning I read in the U.S.A. Today about the movies Invictus and Up in the Air, both new releases with interesting timing. Invictus details Mandela’s ascension to the presidency in South Africa, providing interesting parallels to the Obama presidency. Up in the Air tells the story of a corporate downsizer–but took six years to make, so its release during economic difficulties suggests a certain serendipity. Julie Powell’s new book Cleaving shares details of her marital infidelity as she achieved a certain celebrity status. With mixed reviews, Cleaving could get a boost from the Tiger Woods saga.

For years now, I have struggled with writing a novel. Other projects have come and gone. My hair is grayer, my middle thicker. I’ve gone to workshops in hopes of being laughed out of the room, only to get encouragement for my work. I hired someone to critique my novel, and she said it was one of her most enjoyable projects ever. Yet all would agree, including me, that the novel needs more work. I’ve written before about my elusive villain and how his motives slither toward and then away from me. The relationship between me and my novel has been a dysfunctional, love-hate roller coaster. I don’t quit because yoga has taught me the importance of exploring difficult, seemingly impossible poses. It took me two years to stay balanced in half moon, so why not take longer with a 400-page tome, if that’s what needs to happen? I keep making up reasons I should quit, but none of them are good. So I keep going.

While writing, I continue to read. Right now I’m into Gabriel Garcia Marquez: A Life by Gerald Martin. I like Garcia Marquez’s work. I love magical realism, and my novel is filled with it. Turns out that his masterwork, 100 Years of Solitude, took years to write and originally existed as a manuscript called The House. Mind you, I am not comparing myself to Garcia Marquez–but as I read his biography, I am reminded that all books come in their right time, and sometimes decades.

We as artists cannot control this timing. Sometimes, as in the case of Invictus and Up in the Air, the timing brings additional interest in and commercial success to a project. Sometimes, the timing causes troubles and heartache, as in movies that were pulled after 9/11 because their content hit too close to home. Sometimes the timing requires the writer to gain maturity and perspective in order to give the project what it needs.

Yesterday I gained some glimpses into solving some of the problems with Blood and Loam. I cut two chapters and one character, with ideas on how to convey the information through my villain…which will allow the reader (and me) to understand him better. I don’t know if this will be the last draft of the work, but I do know that I am getting close to resolving the issues that have kept me from submitting it. I don’t understand the mysterious ways of timing, though I do understand that in many ways I created my own suffering through all the stops and starts over the years. I don’t know if this book will be a commercial success or failure, or if it was just meant for me to heal some inner wound. I know that finishing this novel is just the beginning, because then I need to think about agents, editors, query letters, and, if someone takes on my work, more revisions. But after all these years, I am starting to understand the story that wants to be told. And that, after all these years, is deeply satisfying.

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