There's a small part of me (very small, mind you) that can't stand the holiday season, because its particular rhythms pretty much enforce the accomplishment of nothing. Between now and January 5, when the kids return to school, I will be doing various advanced forms of nothing--reading, taking photos, playing some guitar, staring at the internet. But the stealth project of the coming weeks is the mental preparation for the novel that damned if I'm not going to start writing on the 5th.
So far I'm a little behind, in that I haven't given the thing a moment's thought. Well, that's not really true, I've been thinking about it for the better part of a year--but the particulars of how I'm going to write it, what's going to happen in it, its opening lines, what the voice is going to be like: all of that remains shrouded in mystery. There was a time when this would have panicked me--I used to be a big, big outliner. But over the years I've come to admit to myself how little I actually use the outlines, and how much of what's good in the book ends up being stuff I had no idea I was going to do.
So why not have no idea about the whole thing, right? Then it will all be good! Um, no, not really. But it won't be any worse than the outlined first drafts were.
What I have for this book are characters. I've got them all pretty much down in my head. I don't know a great deal about them, per se, but I know what they're like. I also know how they're going to come together, and that's what I be writing about when I start writing.
I have to admit, I quite like this feeling of incipience--the feeling that soon I'm going to try to make something. I might even like it more than the actual trying to make something, in fact. And the feeling is all wrapped up in the notion that 2009 is going to be a very different year for a lot of people--that it will be a year of sitting back, clearing our heads, and figuring out precisely what is really important to us and how to hold on it. Some people will not be able to hold on, and it makes me sad to think of it. But for those of us whose savings aren't wiped out, and who manage to keep our jobs, it could be a very good year, the kind that forces us to simplify, organize, and remember what makes our lives worth living. For me, it's my family, of course, and music and art and books, both reading them and, fingers crossed, writing them.