Chapter 11, such as it is, is done. After writing the previous blog entry I went back and immediately understood what wasn't working. The first try had had too much reflection (pages of Rachel lying in bed thinking about things) and the second not enough (I had been trying to cram too much action in too short a space of narrative time, like an overstuffed piece of carry-on luggage). It was, it appears, a problem of pacing.
That "it appears," while it might seem like a pretentious bit of throat-clearing, may actually have been the truest statement in the previous paragraph. For what is to say how all of this might seem later? Writing a novel is one of the strangest experiences I have ever had, (not that I am complaining, for I have wanted to write a novel my entire adult life) and one of the many curiosities is how one's view of it changes over time, gradually yet definitely, like a view of a distant object, a mountain range, say, as you approach it. Everything about it: Whether you think you can do it, what you think has to happen, who the characters are and what they want.It is an unfolding over time, just as a novel is for the reader.
I have changed too, and maybe not for the better. There is a constant pull between writing and everything else. "Everything else" includes human contact, walks in the sun, museum visits. Today I am filled with guilt because I went to see a movie unrelated to Jane Austen instead of spending the afternoon on Chapter 12. The conflict between living in the world and living in the world of your own imagination, and imagination has to win.
And yet. A while back I wrote about writing on the subway, impressed by this new accomplishment. Now it seems routine, like tying my shoes. I take a seat, open my notebook, and the world falls away, the words flow out like water. Good or bad, they come like some place in my mind has turned on the tap, from distant spot in my brain. And that is kind of astonishing, how these words seem to march out of my brain and onto the page. Like I am dreaming, but I am awake.