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What It’s Like to Finish a Novel

Finishing a book is one of the most befuddling experiences in life. I have just experienced it for the seventh time (five published and one unpublished books, plus this new one), and it is always the same. 

Regardless of my vows to keep my life balanced, by the end I have failed utterly, as always. I still exercised, but less, still had human contact, but less, still took care of business, but less. But even a minimum of an hour a day on each of these leaves a whole lot of hours every day to be obsessive, especially considering that the “get up and get back to your book” alarm in my head was going off around 5AM. 

In some ways it’s the same as the tail end of any long stretch of concerted mental effort, knowing you must be exhausted but being too wired to feel it. The exhaustion shows up in weird ways, like disorientation even in familiar surroundings. I walked into a plexiglass wall a few days back and still have the tender forehead to show for it, though the lump and bruise have faded. The other day I decided not to go on a new hike with a group because I would have to drive on a highway to get there, and I didn’t trust myself to pay adequate attention to the road.

The late Sharon Kay Penman, an author much admired by historical novelists, once said at a conference, “While you’re writing about the past, don’t forget to live in the present.”  She knew how hard that can be.  My characters are more concrete to me than my own body, more real to me than the people in my life. It is an extraordinary state to be in, and I am not complaining. It is a privilege to be able to go into another world. It’s the coming out that’s hard. 

I look around and wonder, “so, what do I do now?”  I have enough neglected business and errands to fill my days for a while. Every day I’ve been pushing forward on my calendar all the phone calls I should have already taken care of, the appointments and reservations I need to make or cancel because the ground is always shifting underfoot whether I’m paying attention or not.  it’s been so long since I pulled out the cleanser that the bathroom and kitchen are an embarrassment to myself.  The problem is, I don’t want to do any of it. I have been in this amazing place of my own creation and I don’t want to come back to boring things. 

Dealing with strangers is the hardest part. I have a few friends who have done a wonderful job of not letting me float off the planet, but I reach a point where I can’t shop for groceries because I would have to speak. The spell gets broken by every little mundanity, and I don’t want to do that.

In a way, this state is much like fresh grief, when being alive doesn’t seem real. I offer this only as a means by which you might glimpse this state, and hope you don’t read too much into the analogy. Maybe in a sense I am grieving the end of something big and important. I don’t deny that. But really, it’s more of the reverse. I have gained something huge—a completed book!  My life is bigger because it now has this in it. I will find my way back to a normal that doesn’t feel at all impoverished, but enriched. 

I know this befuddlement is brief and fleeting. Unlike grief, I will “get over it.” I’m going to fill this day with healthy goodness and maybe even make a few boring phone calls, solve a few nagging problems, and possibly get the toothpaste splatter out of my sink. 

Or maybe that can all wait. The sun is shining, and I’m meeting a friend this morning. The world is offering its welcome, and I am going to stop writing this and step out the front door, letting all my senses remember that I am still here.

What i did today The dahlias at Butchart Gardens were like a fireworks show just for me.
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Tod Inlet August 2022


i have a lot of favorite places in the area around Victoria. I have gone more times than I can count to Elk/Beaver Lake, Thetis Lake, Witty’s Lagoon, Swan Lake, Mystic Vale, and Island View Park, to name a few, but there’s one that is in a category all its own. it may sound macabre, but I have anointed Tod Inlet as the ’hold my memorial service and scatter my ashes here” favorite.

I have been getting up (without alarm) around 5 and working until 10 or 11 on my new novel, at which point I am worthless to do more for a while. For the last few weeks I have used that as the marker at which I go to the gym to swim and work out, or go for an amble along the shore or in the forest.  

Today i finished the heavy duty revision and am down to tweaks and line edits This is such a huge marker point that I decided to go do a forest bath at Tod Inlet. Remembering a promise I make to myself but have always forgotten to this point, I took a picnic lunch. In the final stages of writing a book, the fridge is in pathetic shape, and what I had today was the rest of a precooked chicken, some snap peas from a farmer’s market a few days back, and the last little bit of a bag wine. Perfect! Off I went!

The path to Tod Inlet changes so much over the seasons.  At this point, the rushing stream has become a trickle so the woods are silent except for the occasional bird. As I walked along, I thanked the forest for being there for me and realized that wasn’t right.  I tried again and thanked the forest for reminding me that I was part of it, and part of everything. 

 I ate my lunch, and I swear that chicken was far more tender and the pea pods far less past their prime than they would have been at my kitchen table. The solitary wasp that showed up though it was pretty good too.

A dragonfly hovered, and as happens so often, I thought of a poem. ‘As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame,” I thought to myself and had a good laugh imagining how a book editor would react to that line. “That repetitive K F K F/ D F D F alliteration is annoying—can you rephrase?” Ah, the difference between poetry and prose!

The ground had that look and smell I remember from campgrounds in my childhood—dry dirt and small stones, a little parched yellow grass at the edges. Memories hovered at the edges of my mind but never quite broke through. 

The bushes were rife with climbing wild sweet peas. Once when I was in France I saw sweet peas at a florist and was shocked that they cost more than roses.  When I asked why, the clerk told me it was because they were “tres raffines.” Very refined?  The seeds even a child can grow? I thought of that today as they flourished in the wild. I suppose everything in nature is refined  if what we mean is perfectly suited to its place, which is definitely not in a florist shop. You can see them along the bank here

Today was a funny mix of juxtapositions of meaning and being, but it makes sense. Finishing a book is like surfacing, and I suppose it should come as no surprise that today dragonflies have editors and sweet peas have judges. Soon I will experience again the mix of gain and loss that accompanies a project as big as a book It changes me, and I will have to find my way back. Or more appropriately, find my way forward. With places like Tod inlet to go to, that shouldn’t be hard.

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What I Bring

I’ve been on the road in British Columbia and Alberta for almost two weeks now, and haven’t bought anything more than two pairs of earrings. Anyone who knows me probably are a bit surprised it was only two, but even those shiny little things are losing some appeal. After all, I only have two earlobes, and I often regret having to choose between several pairs I already have that both look great with what I am wearing.  I joke about “need” having absolutely nothing to do with most purchases, and though that is true, even wanting something is rarely strong enough an impetus now to pull out the credit card. 

I have lived in Victoria almost two years now and I have yet to do any serious clothes shopping. There are so many boutiques filled with things that are just my style, but so far I just haven’t been that interested. This is largely because with the way I live now, anything I buy will have one of two fates.  Either I will lug it with me when I move, or it will sit in storage. Those are pretty big hurdles for any potential purchases, and most things just get put back. 

This is not to say I haven’t bought quite a few things in two years, but only because I started from pretty close to zero when it came to suitable clothing and supplies for living in a place where the weather similar to San Diego lasts, oh maybe three months tops, and in 2022 regrettably hasn’t even arrived as we approach the summer solstice.  But I really do have everything I need now, and what I could use (a different standard) is now down to a couple of things I will buy if I stumble upon them but I won’t actually make a point of looking for. 

I was reading an article this morning by a minimalist who wrote about what she is really most glad she kept, and it got me to thinking about my own “must haves.” Other than suitable clothing, groceries, and the things I can count on being in any place I rent, here they are:

  1. 1. My blender.  One of the two items I dearly miss when I travel.  I do smoothies almost every morning my way. i almost never buy them, because they aren’t exactly what I want.
  2. 2. My collapsible microwave popcorn maker—my other dearly missed item. I  often just have popcorn in the evening if I have had enough to eat that day.
  3. 3. Jewelry!  My jewelry is the scrapbook of my life.
  4. 4. My desktop computer and printer. The printer doesn’t get used that much, but wow, is it inconvenient not to have it. 
  5. 5. My own TV.  I bought a small, high def television to help my astigmatism, to be able to have it where I want, and to avoid having to figure out the bells and whistles of the one in the place I am living. 
  6. 6. My waterpik.  The funniest thing I ever heard an author say to the ubiquitous question about her biggest piece of advice to other writers, was “floss regularly.”  I agree. 
  7. 7. My electronic photo frame.  It reminds me how blessed I am every day.

I bring more things with me—the books of the moment, supplies, and personal items mostly—and there are a few things that will make it onto the ‘must have” list in the unlikely event they don’t come with the rental. I have to have a way to make excellent coffee (usually I bring my own even if there is something decent there). I need good hair products, not whatever bargain basement stuff they might supply,  I need back support pillows because many places don’t even have one ready-made great place to sit.  I also bought one of those little electric coolers that work with ice cubes to cool just an immediate space around me—helpful with the heatwaves in a place where air conditioning is rare. Fluffy slippers and candles for winter nights. And, of course the final must have—a corkscrew!  Come on over for wine and popcorn!  I’ll even give you the best place to sit.

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Peace: For That I Came

I have been thinking about peace today as I continue a road trip through British Columbia and Alberta. I arrived this afternoon at Waterton Lakes National Park, which is part of what is called the International Peace Park, because it is contiguous with Glacier National Park in Montana. Together they form the only cross-border national park in the world.   It is also Shabbat, which is always paired with Shabbat Shalom, the Sabbath Peace. 

It was a good day to ponder what peace means both abstractly and personally, and as is often the case, a poem—this time “As Kingfishers Catch Fire” by Gerard Manley Hopkins—popped into my mind. I have a lot of favorite poets, but no other who has been a favorite in my teens, twenties, thirties, and every decade of my life.  He’s not an easy poet for a lot of reasons—unusual use of language and meter, great leaps from one image to another, and very heavy Christian messaging (which I tend to ignore unless there is a bigger idea, which there often is).

I was driving through an area burned by a wildfire five years ago (see photo), and noticing both what is irrevocably dead, and what is now alive and thriving. The immediate connection I made with the poem was upon looking at a beautiful patch of golden wildflowers amid the white skeletons of dead trees. The line I thought of was this: “Whát I dó is me: for that I came.”  

Those flowers came into existence to be flowers. The trees came into existence to be trees. They are doing, or did, it well.  It is the simplest of thoughts,  but there is a whole world of meaning to it. 

The larger context of that line is this:

Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: 

Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; 

Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells, 

Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came. 

So to translate a little (I told you he isn’t easy), he is saying that every living thing has as its purpose to manifest what it innately is. A magpie must express its magpieness, a willow its willowness.   “Myself,” they all speak and spell. “I came here to be me.”

Sometimes when I see a living thing, I will say out loud to it that it is doing a great job of being a whatever it is—a squirrel, a butterfly, a trout, a poppy, a redwood. I did this once when I was with a friend and she thought I was a little nuts (well, maybe there is something to that).  But it’s true. Everything in nature does a beautiful job of “selfing.”

Except humans. We are terrible at it. We are the only ones who are confused about what we are, and what we are supposed to be.  We are the only ones who get our past selves tangled up with what we are now, or who project future selves we may never become. It’s hard being human.  We so rarely are at peace. 

Maybe the key to peace is in the Daoist principle of wu wei, often translated as effortlessness. Doing what comes naturally.  Going with the flow. For humans, this might mean learning to hear what our deepest “indoor” self is trying to tell us, and manifesting that as our “outdoor” self.   Perhaps peace lies in “selfing” as a verb, not just any old self, but the self that we are truly meant to be. The one that fits in this world. The one that doesn’t fight to be something or somebody else, the one that doesn’t need to judge, compare, control. 

But how?  Hopkins suggests something really profound. ‘The just man justices.”  How can I walk around “justicing”? How can I walk around “peacing”? Can it reach a point where I don’t just practice these things, but become them? This is what the Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad did, (peace be upon them all), and it’s important to remember that we don’t have to make it all the way to Nirvana or believe in heaven to find at least glimmerings of that perfect peace just by trying to be our best selves

Someone once said “God is a verb”.  I think what I am saying, and what Hopkins is saying, is similar.  When we can say “what I do is indeed truly me,” when we live the verbs that bring us into the harmony that every other creature participates in, we will indeed know why we came.

if you are interested, here is the whole poem:

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; 

As tumbled over rim in roundy wells 

Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name; 

Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s 

Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: 

Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; 

Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells, 

Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came. 

I say móre: the just man justices; 

Keeps grace: thát keeps all his goings graces; 

Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is — 

Chríst — for Christ plays in ten thousand places, 

Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his 

To the Father through the features of men’s faces. 

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At the Car Dealership, Thinking about Time

My relationship with time continues to evolve. On the one hand, I recognize at age 72 that even under the best of circumstances, I don’t have all that much left. I read somewhere that people like me are in the fourth quarter. We just don’t know how far into it we are.  So just in case that airhorn sounds soon, I don’t want to be caught off guard with important dreams and wishes unfulfilled. 

On the other hand, I am amazed at how relaxed about time I am. I think I am more aware of that now that I am working on another book, because there is always the temptation to pack a maximum amount of writing into a day.  But I haven’t been doing that at all. Sunday I took the whole day off to drive up Vancouver Island for the day. Monday, I spent a half a day combining a two-hour walk around a local lake, with lunch, and dropping a friend at the airport. She kept mentioning how aware she was of how much time this was taking away from my writing, and I guess it boils down to needing a much wider sense of productivity in my life. I want to produce happiness, vitality, pleasure, companionship, health, not just words. It was time far better spent than writing all day. Tomorrow my son comes to visit me in Victoria for a week, and much as I love finding out what’s going to happen next in my new book, I don’t care if Iwrite a word while he’s here.

Right now, I am sitting at the Toyota dealership getting my Prius serviced. They asked if I wanted a taxi or bus voucher so I could go home and back, and for a hot moment I considered it. Then I realized I don’t mind waiting for my car. I don’t really want to go home for an hour or two. Just sitting for a while and walking over to the mall across the street to pick up a few things I’d need to stop for in the next day or two anyway both seem like a pretty good use of my morning. I’m listening to some oldies on the sound system in the lounge, singing along (only in my head out of mercy for others) and having fun remembering back when. And of course drafting a blog post. It probably wouldn’t have occurred to me to do that today, and writing these posts is one of the most reliable ways I have to get in touch with myself.

I think about expressions like ”taking time,” and ’making time,” and i want to laugh at how much we cannot do either. We don’t really even ”have time” or to “not have time” to do things. We don’t own it that way. Time moves along and we move with it doing our best, or not, to bless this gift of life by using it in ways we value.

It’s not just waking hours that count.  It’s feeling at home in one’s day, whatever that means at the moment. I don’t think I have ever been in partnership with time in quite the same way I am now. I want a full life but I see no need to fill up my days. When I manage simply to be here now, I notice how full they simply are.

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Rush

There’s nothing more exciting than a rush. There are rushes of emotions, rushes of experience, rushes of insight. Forget the bad rushes.  The good ones are what make life birth itself again.

There are several rushes in my life now. I am back living in my favorite place, one block from the cliffs at Dallas Road in Victoria (photo of a part of my walk below). I walk almost every day for a while there to center myself, and I am always overwhelmed with gratitude and joy that I am here now. That I am still alive to the sea air and the sound of the waves, and the cliff faces, and the piles of bleaching logs, and the pebbled beaches, and the colors, and the brightening sun, and the sounds of people, dogs, gulls. 

There’s another rush now, because I have reached the point in my new novel where the characters are starting to come alive, where they tell me what they are thinking, where they tell me what to write. It’s what always keep me going, this sense of surprise. Today, for example, my main character revealed to me how angry she was at her husband, how ready she was to respect herself by not finding her identity in his wake, and she makes more sense to me now. The subsequent story will follow on the energy her voice is generating. The husband will be revealing himself too. I just have to wait for it. 

I don’t know about other authors, but when I begin writing, I use the first draft to find out who my characters are. First drafts for me are about thoughts and dialogue. Even a complete first draft is, I think, maybe 60% of the way to the finished product. I draft quickly, and then I worry later about things like the weather, or whether my characters are walking in the park or eating while they talk or think. I care even less if it is breakfast or lunch, and if breakfast, whether it is pancakes or eggs and how the eggs are prepared. I don’t care if they are hungry enough to eat or if they just pick at the edges. By the time you read the book, all those details will be there, but it is the discovery aspect of the first draft that thrills me the most. 

Wow!  I just didn’t know until the fight in the hotel room broke out that my protagonist and her husband  were that much at odds. I didn’t know until she rationalized her own affair how much his philandering affected her self esteem. I didn’t know that she was contemplating leaving him. I didn’t know until she broke away from her mother how strongly she felt about not letting anyone else dictate her life, and how she would have to defend herself against that again in her relationship with her husband. Yes, these are real people, so I am reading things into their story, but there is another kind of truth that a writer has to reach for when the known facts simply run out, when it’s up to me to make the facts make sense.

I have set something powerful in motion and I can’t wait to see what happens next. That’s what makes it a rush. The final rush will be sharing it with you with a cover around it. Don’t hold your breath. Right now the creativity is enough. Kind of like the wind blowing in from the sea today.  Who knows where it goes?

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Categories of Time


When I was still teaching, I always appreciated Convocation Day at my college, which occurred immediately before classes started in the fall.  I don’t mean that I liked sitting in a room listening to administrators telling the faculty  about this and that.  That was often excruciating, and I was really glad for a side door when the lights went down. What I liked about it was that it signaled a return to structure in my life. From then until Christmas, I knew on most days where I needed to be and what I needed to do.

The lack of structure between semesters always presented challenges, but a far greater challenge for me emerged when I became a novelist and started filling every available hour on a book. I was glad to have absolutely nothing I had to do in the summer and on breaks, because it meant I could write, write, write till my eyes swam and my knees buckled when I stood. 

It wasn’t good for my health or anything else about my life. Having too liitle to do and doing too much of one thing are both hazards, and I developed a way of dealing with this that has served me well not only while I was working but even today.  I call it “Categories of Time.”  

The concept is simple. I make a list of four to six activities that are essential to what I see as a balanced, satisfying life. Then I commit, from the time I wake up to the time I go to bed, to spend at least one hour on each. As long as I fit that hour in, I can spend the rest of the day distributed however I wish among all the categories. Of the roughly 16 hours a day I am not sleeping, I still have 11 that have no strings attached. 

In the past, when I was actively writing, my categories looked like this:  Writing, Exercise, “Laurel Maintenance” (anything from taking a shower, to paying bills, to grocery shopping), Promoting my Writing Career, and Wasting Time. Yes, I even built in the requirement not to be productive 24/7. 

Then, as long as I did my hour of each, I could do whatever I wanted. This worked amazingly well for me because it would get me out of my desk chair if it got to to be mid-afternoon and I had done nothing but write. Four more categories before bedtime! Gotta get to the gym, gotta get those bills paid, gotta work on a blog post, even gotta play solitaire, or watch a movie.  I stayed healthy, happy and, most important, well balanced by following this truly unburdensome approach to time. 

I have very little I have to do for the next few months, as I don’t really need to start thinking about my fall cruise assignments until the end of July. Working on a new book, though, sets off alarm bells because I know, combined with no daily structure and no real demands on my time, how obsessive I can get. 

So the other day I figured out the Categories of Time that are going to get me through this spring and summer.  They’ve changed a little as my life has changed and also because my sense of what is important has been altered by the events of the last few years. Here are my 2022 categories:

Write

Exercise

Connect with Others

Learn Something

Laurel Maintenance 

Waste an hour

Yes, it really works. Right now, if someone were to ask me “How was your day?” I can answer the best and happiest  way possible:  Balanced.  Try it!

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Feels Like Home

The downsizing I did to move to Canada called for some ruthless shedding of possessions. Among the deepest cuts I made was in my kitchen. I had awesome top-of-the-line cookware in all shapes and sizes. I had beautiful dishes and glassware.  I had gadgets galore, and some small countertop appliances. I loved all of it, but it simply could not come with me into this chapter in my life. 

I made only a few exceptions to my ‘’get rid of it” mentality.  In past years I was lucky enough to live abroad three times, once in Oxford, and twice in Florence. All three times my rental digs had  cheap tableware that gave me no pleasure to use.  As a result , each time I made a few purchases to use there and then bring home. The first time in Florence it was two hand painted salad bowls from a small boutique.  The second time it was matching pasta bowls. In Oxford, it was a pair of Edinburgh crystal wine glasses from Harrod’s I got on a trip to London. Over the last twenty or so years since then, they have remained among the things I most treasure (see photo).

One box of things I wasn’t ready to give up came with me to Victoria. Since I arrived in the middle of 2020, that box has sat in the storage unit I have for things I don’t need at the moment. I’ve pictured in my mind the beautiful things that are there, and I was always glad I kept what’s in it, but everything has seemed so tentative that bringing my own dishes to a temporary rental just wasn’t something I was going to do.  

Until now. 

I am back in a place I rented for a few months last year, and I plan to be here at least until the end of the year. I’ll be gone for shorter periods here and there, but this is as settled as living gets for me. There is something about this place that feels magical. Maybe it’s the location one block from the sea cliffs. Maybe it’s collective good vibes in a heritage house, accumulated in a century of good people living here. Maybe it’s the sweetness of the owners, who live upstairs over my ground floor apartment. Maybe it’s the flower garden I see out my window as I write. It’s a funny little place, a bit weird in its layout, and with the quirks that come with age, but being here has put me in a completely different frame of mind.   Here is a photo I took last summer. The window next to the porch is the one I look out from in my living room.

Yesterday I drove to storage and pulled out my dishes. I used one of the salad bowls today, and it was so affirming to be connected again to my life story, to be reminded of my through lines, and if I dare say, to appreciate my own excellent eye for beautiful bowls. 

They belong here because I belong here.  They remind me of where and who I have been, and will be with me as I move forward into what I will become. 

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One Door Closes…

 I leave places a lot, especially now that I don’t have a permanent residence.  I’m not sure I could even reconstruct a list of all the place I have left since the ”Big Leave,” which was pulling up roots in San Diego and moving to Victoria.  I don’t mean places I spent one or two nights, but places where I moved in long enough to set up my computer and unpack my blender and popcorn maker. Places where I bought several bags of groceries and hung up some clothes. 

I love being settled into a new place.  Walking out the door into a new environment, a new chance for discoveries big and small, is a genuine psychological boost, but I get a different kind of pleasure out of the last few days before I leave a place.

I have spent the last month and a half in a condo on the edge of Victoria’s Chinatown, and I leave tomorrow.  I am 99 percent packed, which means in the last day I have handled and thought about  pretty much every item I brought here. There’s something about winnowing down that focuses me, because once again I see how, even after having gotten rid of almost everything when I left San Diego, I still have too much. 

How do I know this?  Because I am at this moment acutely aware of what I never used. A few days back, yet another suitcase of clothing that I liked and was perfectly fine went to a local charity shop because it’s surplus, plain and simple. I am also very aware of exactly what I still own, a state it is easy to lose track of when you stay in one place and still have room to stash what you keep buying. 

In the last two years I have developed a simple test for possessions. I ask myself when considering buying something:  will this sit in your little storage unit where you can’t easily get at it, or will you haul it from place to place every time you move?  Those are the only two options, and I don’t buy much anymore because neither sounds that great. 

The other thing I take perhaps a slightly weird pleasure in is figuring out how to walk out of a place with zero remaining food.  My meals get very strange toward the end—tonight’s dinner was a bowl of frozen blueberries and sweetened goat cheese, and lunch was a salad made with almost every last tidbit in the fridge.  I do have avocados and some Parmesan cheese to take with me tomorrow, so I am hearing the “fail’ buzzer in my head. Really, the empty fridge is just a fun game anyway. 

So now I am sitting here, cupboards, closets and drawers empty. After I do a little cleaning  tomorrow, it will be as if I were never here. That’s something to think about too, how we vanish from the places we leave. How the only thing we really take everywhere is ourself. How tomorrow I will bring myself somewhere else and be present there. 

And that brings me to the last thing I learned in the place I leave tomorrow. I wanted to live in this area at least for a little while since I moved to Victoria. I envisioned in particular all the Asian restaurants I would try, and I did close to zero of that. A few days ago, I thought about all the great menus I’d read in windows, all the opportunities I let pass, but then I wondered who I thought this restaurant-going Laurel was.  I brought the essential, authentic me to Chinatown and she eats at home. I didn’t waste opportunities. I was just being myself.  With a little Chinese take-out here and there. 

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Wanna

Sometimes I dig deep into my diary entries (over 400 by now, starting in 2008), to see what was going on in my life at some random point in the past.  I came across this little ditty I wrote over ten years ago, and I had to laugh at how apt it has remained. 

There once was an author Corona

Who said of her new book “I’m gonna…”

Write it, she means,

But then life intervenes

For so long she now says, “I don’t wanna.”

Well, okay, these days I do kinda wanna. I haven’t written a word of what I hope will be a successful attempt at novel number six, but I have actually made several passes at a narrative structure  and I think I have one that will work. The characters are starting to talk, and the drama is starting to build. I have reached the point where I can’t hold it all in my head, so I have two choices—do a brain dump and think about something else, or start writing it down. The first option seems hopeless. I guess I am writing a novel. See you when I surface!