Monday, October 1, 2012

Here's another picture of my grandfather. This photo was taken in the 1930's, when he was a young police officer in the London Metropolitan Police. For the last couple of days, I had been wandering around in a haze of indecision about the last quarter of the book I'm working on now, which is the 5th in the Inspector Pekkala series. The 4th, which is called The Red Moth, is already finished and due out early in 2013. In the 5th book, Stalin gives Major Kirov, Pekkala's assistant, the task of tracking down Pekkala, who has gone missing behind the German lines just after the invasion of Russia in 1941. As with the other books, there always seems to be a moment when I am faced either with a multitude of possibilities about how things could go. The writing grinds to a halt as I try to figure out which path is best. It is very disorienting, and I have learned that the only cure is to get away from my desk for a while. Having built up momentum over months of working on a project, it is actually harder not to write than it is to sit down and write every morning. I look out my window and see people heading off to work. I heard the rumble of cars in the distance as people commute into New York City. This is during the school year. For the rest of the time, I am up in Maine and the most I am likely to hear are chainsaws buzzing somewhere in the forest. And not to be working, when everybody else is working, feels strange and sad. The most logical thing to do when I am stuck is to keep writing and to figure out the problem on the page, but I have learned the hard way that this takes a huge amount of time and energy and is less efficient than doing nothing. How can doing nothing be efficient? It sounds like a Zen koan. But I have learned to trust my head to work things out by itself, if only I can step back far enough from the story to let myself see it from a different angle. The answer always appears. And when it does, it seems so simple that my first reaction is to think - how is it possible that I didn't figure this out right at the beginning? The things which appear simplest in the final product are often the most difficult to create while the process is still ongoing. To work by not working has been one of the most complex challenges I have ever faced as a writer.

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