#84: Outward Movement

Hairpinned Mediterranean roads. Sea and green cliffs, terra cotta roofs.
Taormina, Sicily

Most years over Christmas I go on a trip with my family and this one is no exception – right now I am writing to you from a cruise ship off the coast of Greece. We spent the day in Sicily yesterday eating pizza and pistachio gelato. We’ll dock in Athens tomorrow. The trip is a final outward movement before I return to a place without three hundred and forty annual days of sun and five-hour siestas, and dig a hole to resume work on the novel.

The novel: I have notes from my early readers. A threshold has been crossed, the story has gone from being a thing floating indistinct across multiple realms of potentiality to a reference-able solid – if not object then image, shadow, tesseract – here in the third dimension. Now there are real problems. Problems that need to be solved. Which is great! I can solve problems. It’s all that wild dark unknown stuff that scares me.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading in preparation for the work. This includes books about books (ie. James Wood’s How Fiction Works), experimental novels and short stories (Robert Coover’s Pricksongs and Descants), books that might sorta be in the same category as my book (redacted), and just a lot more fiction in general (Joan Didion, Roald Dahl, M.T. Anderson). I find myself reading more carefully now, looking for stuff like how did other authors solve a similar problem or what new forms is this author using to tell her version of a familiar story. I’m remembering lessons I’d learned in the process of writing my first novel and subsequently forgot. I will also be doing a read of the manuscript myself during the downtime on this trip.

By the 31st of December I’ll have traveled this year to eleven different countries. I don’t think I’ve missed a Sunday Letter yet, so I’m going to give myself the gift of a rare break next weekend and pick up again in January.

May your end of year be restorative, overwhelming, spent with loved ones, quiet with solitude, everything, everything.