Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Destination: Life : : Stopping at the Well

lifes journey bigger_thumb[2]Anne McAllister is celebrating a stop at the oasis in the land of “Between Books.”
I am – glory hallelujah! – between books. For months I was in the Sahara of sentences and paragraphs and pages and chapters which undulated and drifted and turned themselves regularly and without warning into the most unholy sandstorms imaginable.
I climbed dune after dune hoping to see an oasis on the other side. And I saw more dunes. And more dunes. And more.
I wrote my way up to page 146 of what would generally be a 220 page manuscript – and I stood at the top of a very high dune, from which I surely ought to have been able to see the tip of some blinking palm tree. And all I saw was sand. Worse, it looked like the same sand I’d been writing my way around in for the past, oh, 60 pages or so. Were those my footprints?
Yep, they were.
I could see a long long long hike ahead of me before I ever got to the promised land – of water and relaxation and THE END and that sort of thing – and it was nowhere near page 220. It looked to be about page 400 or so. At best.
So I did when any self-respecting writer would do who knows she can climb most any brick wall or wiggle a brick loose and sneak through or kick it really hard until something gives – but who was sinking in the quicksand of the desert, er, book in question. I put all 146 pages in a file called “extra stuff” and went back to the beginning.
Somehow I managed to get back to the beginning without the slog. I merely shoved all 146 pages of sand into a file and began another one. Pristine. Clear. No sand. Page 1.
It wasn’t even disheartening. The story was there, after all. It had just been obscured by the tornado of sand swirling around in my brain. Starting over was easier by far than slogging around in the middle. If I’d kept slogging, I am pretty sure I would be there still. My editor doesn’t want to talk about that. Neither do I.
So . . .I started over. And I wrote. And I wrote. And when the sand beneath my feet gave the slightest hint of dusting up, I ignred it and kept going. It was easier the second time through. I was less distracted by the pretty mirages that had beckoned me the first time. I knew them for the distractions they were. I kept my eye on the finish line in my head. And when I got halfway, I caught a glimpse of a palm frond. I quickened my pace. My hero pulled up his socks and got his act together. My heroine got a grip on her life.
And it was all downhill from there.
Truly. I’m not saying it was an easy downhill. But I made it. I sent the book in last week – and I’m expecting revisions any day. But I’m not thinking about them.
I’m thinking about how wonderful it is sitting here at the oasis, reading the books I want to read, basking in the dog walking I can take without having to spend it thinking through the last mental dust storm I’ve created. I am dipping into the well of ‘real life’ which is where inspiration comes from. I’m catching up on the things the DVR saved for me when I was up to my eyeballs in the Sahara. I’m even have an opinion on who Peyton Manning should play for. Last week I would have been hard pressed to remember who he was.
My living room carpet is vacuumed. My bills are paid and filed. My stack of TBR books is dropping slowly. The genealogy class I teach got a real ‘hand-out’ this week. I tried out a new recipe. I got one birthday card off on time (sorry to those who are still waiting for me to get to theirs!). My office has a few square feet of identifiable floor that is not covered with the stuff I needed to dig my way out of lifes journey bigger_thumb[2]the last book. I might even get more of it uncovered before I take the plunge again.
But maybe I won’t.
Life at the oasis is marvelous. But mostly it’s marvelous by comparison. I don’t think I’m an oasis-sitter for the long haul. I like the slog (fool that I am) too much.
The open road (dust storms, tornadoes, flash floods, and all) of a new book will soon start to beckon.
I’m not to the “I can hardly wait” point yet. But I can begin to feel the itch for sand between my toes.

savas'swildcat_usAnne’s current book, Savas’s Wildcat, should be out sometime toward the end of this month – or maybe it is already. Her oasis doesn’t sell books.
But if it’s out there, put it up at eye level like her dad always did. She’ll love you for it. And if you want to buy a copy and read it, her husband will be happy, too!


  1. Anne, what a marathon effort! So sorry to hear you got bogged in the Great Sandy Desert with the last story, but it's inspiring to hear you've shifted gear and got through it all. Perseverence does pay off! good on you.

  2. Wow - give yourself a Gold medal for perseverance Anne! Thanks for this inspirational blog. Caroline x p.s lets hope the oasis has a bar, so that you can celebrate with a drink or two when your editor says she loves your book.

  3. Goodness, Anne, I was worn out simply reading about your endurance test. I'm so glad you got there in the end and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that all the hard work pays off.

  4. Ann, Thank you, The Great Sandy is not a good place to be. The only comfort was knowing the story was worth telling if I could ever stop following the wrong leads!

  5. Caroline, I think a bar at the oasis is a GREAT IDEA! I'll bring it up with the next camel driver I see. The editor sent brief revisions just a few hours ago, so I'm thinking I'll be completely out of the desert by early next week. Hooray!

  6. Margaret, thank you! It's a relief to be sitting under the palm trees at the moment, figurative though they are. Actually I'm enjoying an early midwestern spring, which has the feel of palm trees, even if not the reality. And I think the hard work has paid off. It's a better book for my having done it, essentially, twice!