Writers create. We give life to characters, build our own worlds. These days, I’ve found the greatest comfort in activities that involve giving life.
Gardening, for starters–an activity that helps me feel productive without cognitive challenges. I can turn my brain off and still create. And somehow, this garden is providing all kinds of metaphors for my life these days!
I’m making revisions on my garden, pulling out rue (for as simple a reason as, “I changed my mind”). I’m filling in gaps, finding more plants to lay down in structure gaps–I’m even planning ahead, wondering if I will run out of carrots halfway through the season (so I should plant some more a few weeks later). I’m spending lots of time imagining what to do with the plants once they take root and bloom and unfurl and all the things that vegetables and herbs do.
You are always working on a vegetable and herb garden–it is a living, breathing thing that has some level of predictability but is entirely unpredictable. Aphids might attack. Ladybugs might come to their rescue. The weather might turn too cold. Something might be mysteriously eating your basil seedlings (really, something is eating my basil seedlings!).
Same with life, same with my writing, same with story.
I rewrite too. I got nearly halfway through my novel last year when I hit a wall. I had written the thing in first person, the very introverted narrator telling us the story through his narrow eyes. The story became narrow, when really it was way more expansive.
Why did I write it in first person?
Because it was, uptil that point, my most comfortable vantage point as a writer. And then I realized that the story had to be told in another, more expansive perspective. I switched to third, learning new points of the craft as I wrote, unearthing parts of the story long buried and invisible.
On the difficulties of writing the book: Was originally in first person but “the main character is a bigmouth … can’t shut up … a yenta,” which worked against his wish for a simpler, Chandleresque style … He dumped the entire 660-page draft (to gasps from the audience) … which “can be hard” … he “had a sick feeling while saying goodbye – but more often than not” his stomach guides him, pointing to what’s right … Can physically feel it in his stomach when the writing doesn’t work … An entire character from Kavalier and Clay – Sammy’s sister – was removed after much lavish attention … Can live with it because “There’s always more where that came from.” … First draft was a “complete disaster” and chucking it was due to the notes of thoughtful editor, to which Chabon replied “The whole thing is fakakta.”
In his case, he re-wrote the entire novel. I wonder if he has a garden, too.