Jeannine Atkins: The Silence In Between

From: Jeannine Atkins
October 17, 2012 at 02:30PM

I spent part of this morning moving some books from piles to shelves, while some were bagged for the next library book sale. But the aloe is still leaning over under the weight of its thick, prickly self, waiting to be repotted. The garden is still waiting for me to appear with clippers and rake. I won’t mention housework. After finishing my novel, I did tend to some chores, but I’m trying to make myself available to the muse, too. And she likes to find me on the window seat, looking unproductive.

There’s a silence before a new work comes that can feel prickly, no matter how I longed for it was while hunching over a hefty stack of pages. There’s been a goal in mind, a sense of how I want this big thing to look. Now my novel has reached that state. Peter has almost finished kindly combing it for errant letters, missing articles, apostrophes doled out too randomly, the occasional if that should be it, or she’s that need a name. He’s put gentle question marks beside too flighty poetic flights. He makes me smile with his sweet manners on my pages: It might be more clear if you had a verb in that sentence. Um, yes. And I’m glad for his occasional praise. “This may be the best description of a color I ever read.” Yay! Anyway, I think we’ll have finished tidying by tomorrow, when I expect the drama of hitting Send. And already I’ve set blank paper before me, which needs to get filled one page at a time.

Empty paper can bring up panic, which I’m trying to ride out with deep breaths, when I’m tending to shallow ones, and a still bottom, when I feel wiggly. The aloe and dried plants can wait just a little longer, while I mull my way to and through false starts, dead ends, ideas not quite interesting enough.  I’ve written a lot of notes about a girl and a place and their particular powers, but I’ve kept myself from opening that file. And my stillness (well, a few more books were re-shelfed) is paying off a bit. I’m catching a few birds that may or may not be important. An older sister. An aunt. Rocks and a clay-bottomed river. These are enough to begin with. I scribble around them, as if they might mean something.

Time will tell, so that’s what I’m trying to give the process. Saying no to the new yarn, the ever-so-attractive unread books, the sack of flour and cranberries, the spade. I’ll get to them, but for now, I’m trying to be as quiet as the paper and the patient, sprawl of roses that I promise to cut back before winter. 


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