I’m in what is for me the strange phase of a novel where I am not writing, per se, only thinking. I do my thinking in long hand on a legal pad, so it might look like writing to a fly on my kitchen wall, but I am actually only talking to myself through a pen. As my wife has pointed out, I am happiest when I am doing something, so this part of writing has always made me bit uneasy. No matter how many pages I fill with my questions and answers, planning is all theory to be tested in the actual lab of the book. But I have too often mistakenly left off this planning for no reason other than impatience. As has been chronicled numerous times in this book, there are as many approaches to outlining as there are writers. But whatever one’s approach, fear must be removed from the equation. That is, you cannot outline for months simply because you do not trust your imagination in the spur of the writing moment, nor can you avoid outlining for fear it will stamp the spark of interest before it is ever fully burning.
For my part, I had to admit that the book I am writing is so dependent on a series of specific, detailed, timed, and interconnected plot points that not outlining, in this phase of the rewriting at least, would be folly. And it has been a great lesson. Not in outlining, though that’s nice, but in patience and its critical contribution to the creative process.
I do not know if the next book I write will be like this one. Perhaps I’ll write it in one draft with no outline. What I do know is that next book will require constant patience. Mind you, as I write this, I have been outlining this latest draft for exactly three days, and expect to be done over the weekend. Patience has nothing to do with time. Patience is the willingness to wait for the answer you seek. Sometimes the wait is only another fifteen seconds, but if you pull your attention from a question too early, saying, “Fine. Good enough,” knowing the answer has not actually come, you have dulled your tool slightly. You sharpen it with trust. Don’t worry though, ten minutes of trust can sharpen a tool dulled from ten days of fear.