My writing metaphors frequently shift, but I find it’s always useful to have a metaphor, something to visualize. Some days it’s construction. I’m building a house, or wiring it, or setting up scaffolding, or simply running through the framework with my hard hat on, screaming as debris falls. Often my metaphors have to do with traveling, running, walking, or hiking. An activity with an end point. (Ideally not the “forest walk” setting on the treadmill, which burns calories but really takes me nowhere, and ideally not a track, which just keeps me circling back to the beginning. When I keep revising Chapter One, or page one, or paragraph one, I know I’m on the track metaphor and need to get off, fast).
I think on this revision of my novel — which is large-scale — I’m hiking. Sometimes I stoop to pick litter off the path. Mostly I move forward at a slow and steady pace. I think there is an end point, and the promise of a vista. I hope it’s not like a mountain I once hiked in the San Juan Islands, where a long, arduous, uphill climb of switchback turns took me to a great view of mountains, Canada . . . and the parking lot, where all the cars stopped after their relaxing drive up the same mountain.
This is the kind of hike that requires a steady pace, some stamina, and good footwear. But today I’m at a rest stop and can see how far I’ve come. I’ve revised to approximately the halfway point. I’m not always sure what “halfway” means — it might change from day to day. It’s an approximate page number of the manuscript, halfway, but it’s also a feeling. I know I have work ahead, but I have done a lot of the heavy work already by improving the beginning, Part One and a bit beyond that. Today I just felt it, strongly. This is halfway.
Like a hiker, I’m conserving energy. In this case, creative energy. Blogging is minimal, and not terribly creative. Other time spent on social media is also extremely limited, just enough to show I’m alive and maintain some contact with friends and the world. My comments are neither witty nor clever. Emails? They’re reduced to telegraphic one-liners. Come to think of it, I’m not even fun to talk to right now. Also, I had to send some thank-you notes the other day, and was thrilled to find a box of cards that simply said the words for me.
It’s a pretty good rest stop, this one, with nice views both up and down. Fresh water, clean bathrooms, a snack bar. I’m a bit daunted by the distance remaining, and the altitude ahead, but I know I’ve already gotten through the parts of this revision that scared me most. Wish I could say it’s all downhill from here. It’s definitely uphill. But I still hope the rest will go faster.
I will take the weekend off, read over what I’ve done so far. I’ll adjust my backpack straps and fix the blister on my foot. I will rest, eat, and have some conversations that involve more than one-word utterances. And I’ll hit the trail again first thing Monday. I used to be a binge writer. Now it’s slow and steady, in whatever time I can grab. Next rest stop: approximately 100 pages ahead. I’ll get there.
At what point do you take breaks from a creative project? Does your resting point change if it’s a new work in progress, a revision, or an edit? How do you replenish yourself and find the strength to go on?