Not that kind of curse. (About that, though, one thing Jim & I were both astonished by when we started decorating our Christmas trees together 8 years ago was this: it is not necessary to curse when putting up tree lights. Growing up we both got the impression that it was the most complex operation in the world, the way our dads both cursed -- and my dad is pretty mild-mannered and not a big curser, so I thought it must be a horrible job; all I can guess is that lights are much better than they used to be and are now curse-optional.) So, not that kind of cursing, this kind: (drumroll) I finally finished the revision of my story "Spicy Little Curses Such As These." Yay halleluja! It turned out to be half revision and half rewrite, with an expensive detour into research, and took more time than it should have. And while it was taking more time than it should have, I hit a patch of writer's paralysis that many of you will be familiar with, the kind where you know you were sitting at your computer for hours, but at the end of the day all you have to show for it is a few rearranged sentences and a lot of anxiety? Well, I have now come to recognize the value of those days: they make me desperate. Desperate to move past whatever part of the story is causing me such anguish. Desperate. (Having just now learned how to italicize in the blogs, I am making up for lost time.) And I finally DO move on; I pull myself together, grit my teeth, roll up my sleeves, and write through it. But it really takes getting to one's wit's end. Wit's middle just doesn't create sufficient desperation.
This was a good little side-track for me and I'm glad I took the time to work on "Spicy" because it reminded me on a small scale of things I learned on a large scale over the 2+ years I worked on Blackbringer. One thing is this: it might take a few drafts to "find the story." You might think you know what it's "about" when you start out, and you might be right, but in my case: probably not. Magical things happen inside the story, a little world grows like a garden, and you just don't know starting out what will get eaten by gophers and what will flourish. In the case of Spicy, the story stayed the same, but the center shifted so it revolved around a new focal point that didn't exist in the floundering of the first few drafts. In the case of Blackbringer, there were BIG pieces of the story that I didn't "find" until I'd been working on it for over a year. And they were revelations. I think of those moments as making a sound like a "snick" -- the sound of a puzzle piece settling into place. And why that is such a perfect word for it is it's not just a sound. You can feel it. You know what I mean? When the puzzle piece snicks into place?
At the SCBWI conferences they kick things off by having the whole faculty of writers, illustrators, editors, art directors, etc, file across the stage and say a single identifying word into the microphone; it's great fun. I think, if I were ever up there, my word might be "snick" -- but no one would get it and they wouldn't laugh or nod approval. They'd look sort of puzzled and polite and I wouldn't want that. But it really is such an important piece of my writing: searching for the snick. It makes everything else worth it and gives me a high that counterbalances any amount of writer's paralysis. So, the reason I'm so glad to have had this little reminder is because it renews my faith in my current novel project. It helps me remember to keep going, to not expect to know everything yet; to know I won't know anything unless I do keep going. Phew!
And now, onto Christmas preparations! We decorated the tree last night. Love doing that. We make mulled wine and build a fire; it's just the two of us and Leroy underfoot because the snapping of the wood scares him and makes him restless. (Shiloh, meanwhile, snoozed unconcerned in another room.) Here are some favorite ornaments:
We got this green glass angel in Venice the day Jim asked me to marry him! And the little red horse I've had since I was a kid.
Cute old-fashioned Santa! I got this for Jim's stocking a few years ago because I really wanted it for the tree!
A Laini's Ladies holiday ornament, and one of the silly clay guys I made in a fever of creation last Christmas. I had so much fun with them! Here's another:
And another folk arty guy:
And here's the living room, looking like Christmas just threw up on it:
After we cleaned up that mess, we wrapped some presents so there would be some to put under the tree. Five or six years ago we couldn't have done that: Leroy was then extremely perplexed by the idea of an outdoor tree indoors and he thought outdoor rules applied. So yes, there was random leg lifting, and hence, no presents under the tree. But he has learned at last.
What's on the Christmas agenda for today? Probably gingersnap-raspberry-jam sandwich cookies, and/or maybe mini cupcakes. Hm.