Twenty-five years ago, when I was in college, I came to realize that every semester I went through a certain pattern. The first few days of class, I'd look over the syllabus and feel excited and even a little smug. This will be great, I'd think. Hard, but great. I'm smart. A 20 page essay analyzing the whatever in Chaucer's pilgrimage? Cool! (Yes, I was an English major.) 10 novels in 11 weeks? Fabulous! I love to read and I've been waiting to dive into Conrad, Eliot and the Brontes. A few weeks in and my spirits would have deflated. I'd be tired. It was freezing cold (I went to University of Wisconsin) with more snow forecast. Who was I kidding, I'd fret. I can't do this. I'm not that bright. No one can do this. These professors are fiends. My parents will be so disappointed. I'd slog through these gray days, drinking gallons of cinnamon or raspberry tea and eating cinnamon toast before I'd crawl under my quilt for an afternoon nap. Then, miraculously, the clouds would break and I'd start writing. I'd take long walks thinking about the book in question and a thesis would just come to me--like magic. I'd write the essay and read it over. Huh, I'd think. It's pretty good. Maybe I will pass the class. Then I'd tackle the next assignment. And I'd feel smart again.
Near the end of my sophomore year, I finally noticed that this was my pattern--so the next time I felt hopelessly on the verge of flunking out, I was able to step back from the ledge and know that this too, would pass (as would I).
What is it that they say about patterns? Maybe we ought to pay attention to them? Learn from them?
I now find myself in similar straits when I'm working on a novel. First, I get an idea and, whoo-ee, it's fantastic. Better than ever. Oh, baby, I can do this. I think about it all the time, I can't wait to dive in and write the masterpiece. So, I start, and I love it. The characters are right out there waiting for me to discover all their facets. They're in my head chatting away with me and that first chapter just rolls out onto the paper. I read it to my husband and he smiles. "It's good," he says. I'm happy, the laundry's getting done and I even find time to make dessert. And then. Then, I'm muddling around the 15,000 word mark. I read over the last few pages and I think, Good Lord, this is rot. I can't send this to anyone. I grumble around the house and holler at the dog. I apologize to my husband for having nothing to read to him. I still sit down to write every morning, but I find I'm writing "Ick" in the margins every few pages. I take a walk. I cook. Maybe clean out a closet or some drawers. And then, the characters start talking to me again. Before I know it I'm at the 25,000 word mark and there's no turning back. And I reread those pages I'd marked "Ick" and find that they're either pretty good--or I know how to fix them. I believe in the characters again, and, perhaps more importantly, they believe in me.
So, with writing, like just about anything else in my life, I know I have to stick with it, muddle through the cloudy days, and find my rhythm (or let it find me).
So, what patterns do you see in your own lives?