This week I finished a short story I’ve been noodling around with for about five years. It started with an image of an old woman building a circular wooden device in her backyard. I saw her in a seaside town on a New England island, threatened by rising sea levels. She refused to evacuate, instead collecting items from the people in the village to add to her circle, which would become a magical shrine.
The finished version is quite different. There is still an old woman, but she lives in ancient times and travels to a village being held hostage by armed invaders who are waiting for the harvest so they can steal it to supply their army stationed nearby. She builds a circle in the forest, constructed of stone, and collects items from the villagers for a shrine, although no one knows why.
I always knew how the story would end. Rarely do I start a story without knowing its end, although I may not know the middle. The end is the most satisfying part, and when I finished what I now call “Mosaic,” I realized why it took so long.
When I started, I had a vague grasp of what the character was doing, but not until I knew more about the transformation she would undergo did the piece come together.
That is often the way. The impulse comes. Sometimes an image. A character. A setting. A title. But not enough for a complete story.
Patience has never been one of my virtues, but I’ve learned that forcing my creative energy to bend to the demands of my analytical mind is not helpful.
In other areas of my life and work, setting goals and making plans works fine. In rewriting, editing, finding markets, developing classes, and working with students, a loving discipline is useful.
But not for the initial creation.
For that, I must wait. Surrender to the process. Sometimes a day or two. Sometimes years.
I used to judge myself for the waiting. Then I noticed that waiting is valuable. It allows the creative impulse to gather itself, to grow and become more than it was.
Slowly, I learned the rhythm and timing of my Creative Self, and stopped scolding it for not marching along as quickly as ego-mind preferred.
Not that I don’t work on other things while a story is germinating. Of course I do. One of my mentors paraphrased the well-known saying:
All things come to she who waits
If she who waits works like hell while she waits.
I take that seriously. I’m a writer. I write every day. But I don’t force myself to complete what is not ready.
There is joy in waiting.
In surrendering to the growth required before a complete story peeks out from behind the veil.
Finishing any creative project is worth celebrating, so no matter what happens to “Mosaic,” published or not, appreciated or not, I’m happy. I finished.