Last night, over a rather large boat of sushi at the infamous Taste of Tokyo with all the syrup folks, Stephan and I got to talking about the importance of marination in writing. I mentioned that I didn't like to give random deadlines to myself. Not random, exactly--but false. For example, I know the new novel is huge and almost impossible. (Almost, not completely.) And so I know to give myself plenty of time.
I often say that one of the troubles with being a writer is that it's happening all the time, whether you know it or not. Good luck keeping up. Once I was standing in line at Six Flags, waiting to get on Nitro, and something just exploded into my brain. I usually have a pad of paper with me wherever I go--but this time, I didn't. And of course, whatever it was, had been lost by the time I got home. One of the reasons I keep my landline is so I can call it from my cell phone and leave rambling, cryptic messages: "check light pollution levels in Memphis," I might say.
This lead to a discussion about how your writing can, and will, change while you're just doing nothing. Say, washing the dishes. You're answering your emails and poof, the plot appears. So, yes, it needs time. You need to write and then a week later re-write. And re-write again fifteen or twenty times. And it needs time to be by itself. Let the work get infected with everything else you're surrounded by: syrupmakers, farm co-ops, bad television, holiday cheer (and the occasional bah humbug.) But also know how much of all that to take out before it's finished.
I had a rather dramatic flash of narrative appear to me the other day while I was transferring at Times Square from the R Train to the 1 Train. Now--granted--I have pretty low taste in some things....a lot of things....so don't be surprised if, some years in the future, you come to the end of my second novel, to find that someone blows the whole place up with colorless, odorless gas....in a way that makes it a good movie starring Seann William Scott, taking a more dramatic, more action-centered role, who is mostly naked most of the time.
The moral of the story is: I'm still plugging away at it.