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April 19, 2003: Now it's Real!

We're back from vacation and are very happy to be home, alive. The last leg of our trip was the bumpiest flight I've ever been on in my life, so solid ground feels great. We were on a commuter plane (only ten rows of seats, fewer than 30 passengers) between Santa Barbara and San Francisco during a windy rainstorm. We suddenly lost altitude - and I do mean suddenly - about fifty feet in three seconds. I looked at my kids who were staring straight ahead, wide-eyed, totally petrified. In my head, I'm hearing the stewardesses mantra, "In the event of a water landing, your seat cushion may be used as a flotation device . . . " I glance at the stewardess who has a totally unconvincing smile on her face, yet I know a jackhammer could not dislodge that smile even though we are headed for certain doom. The captain does not come on the intercom with a jovial, "Well, quite a bump, eh?" because I'm sure he's fighting desperately for control of the plane, wrestling with the stick as the wobbling plane plunges toward the shark-infested waters of San Francisco Bay. Just about the time I think we're going into the drink, he pulls it up and we go on to land bumpily, but safely. Later, I told Katie we'd paid extra for the Thrill-O-Minute Flight. I don't think she believed me.

The really good news is that a finalized copy of my contract and the first half of my advance was waiting for me in the mail box when we got home. I stared at the envelope. Okay, now it's real. Yes, it was real before, but now it's really real. This probably makes no sense to anybody but me, but there you have it. It was silly, but I stared at that check and burst into tears. All the years of writing at night when everybody else was asleep, writing on weekends when I should have been out pulling weeds or exercising or playing with my kids, all the times I asked myself if this path was really leading anywhere suddenly collapsed into a tiny ball of emotion that stuck in my throat and choked me and there was nothing for it but to cry with relief and joy and gratitude. My husband hugged me and patted my shoulder and said nice things like, "You really deserve this. I think we should go shopping."

I didn't do any writing while we were on vacation because I wanted to let that pinched nerve in my back have little time off, and because I just wanted to take in new sights and sounds, sort of revive the creative spirit. I used to think that I needed to keep my nose to the grindstone and write and never look up, but now I've come to realize that one's ideas have to come from somewhere and external stimuli is the best place. So I did some reading and watched several Mystery Science Theater 3000 DVDs with my family and my best friend and her family, and ate out and checked out people just being people. The week I spent not writing will be more valuable in the long run than simply sitting at the computer trying to force words to come from an empty brain (yes, I know how that must sound ). The revisions for TDiTD are going well and I feel much better about them now that I have re-filled my creative cupboard, so to speak. I'm anxious to move on to my next book, but I read some advice once that I've tried very hard to follow.

The advice was, "Don't stop too soon." It was in a book I highly recommend, The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes (And How To Avoid Them) by Jack M. Bickham. When you're close to finishing, the tendency is to get the damn thing done and move on, but hang in there. Keep going as though you were just getting started. Keep your enthusiasm up and your words and ideas fresh. If you finish before you're truly finished, it will show and your readers will know and you will have cheated them out of your best. Easy to understand, harder to accomplish, but I'm working on it.

-- Marianne


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